Australia ends losing rugby run vs Scotland with 16-15 win

Australia's Andrew Kellaway is tackled by Scotland's Darcy Graham during the Autumn International rugby match between Scotland and Australia, at BT Murrayfield Stadium, in Edinburgh, Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022. (Robert Perry/PA Wire via AP) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

EDINBURGH, Scotland (AP) — One match into the Wallabies’ end-of-season tour of the northern hemisphere and already it’s going better than last year’s trip to Europe.

Australia ended a run of three straight losses to Scotland with an attritional 16-15 win at Murrayfield on Saturday to start the tourists’ run of five tests against Six Nations opposition.

Trailing 15-6 after an hour, the Australians capitalized on the sin-binning of Scotland replacement lock Glen Young when captain James Slipper barrelled over for the visitors’ only try.

Bernard Foley converted and booted a penalty in the 71st minute to give the Wallabies a lead they wouldn’t relinquish, even if Scotland was handed a golden chance to snatch victory in the final minute.

With a penalty from about 40 meters out and just to the left of the uprights, Scotland flyhalf Blair Kinghorn pulled his kick wide left.

“It was pretty tough to watch that last kick when I heard the crowd going off," Australia coach Dave Rennie said. “It was a tough game — it could have gone either way.

“It’s massive," Rennie said of the win. “It gives us a little bit of confidence.”

Kinghorn was selected ahead of the mercurial Finn Russell, who has been banished from the squad because of form reasons and previous disciplinary issues, and capped a strong allround performance by racing 50 meters to collect his own kick and gather to score Scotland's second try.

His evening will likely be remembered only for that crucial missed kick, however, and he held his head in his hands as it quickly became clear it would cost his country the win.

“We had an opportunity to win at the end, but we have to get around Blair," Scotland captain Jamie Ritchie said. "Unfortunately, he didn’t make the kick but it’s not his fault.

“There were earlier opportunities in the game to win it, so I’m proud of the boys’ effort and we’ll be back next week.”

Australia's players roared in joy moments later after the ball was cleared from the field to bring up the final whistle. After a 2-1 home series loss to England and another tough Rugby Championship — Dave Rennie’s team lost four of its six matches — it was a welcome start to the Australians’ latest European tour.

In last year’s, they lost to Scotland, England and Wales on successive weekends and have since fallen to No. 9 in the world ranking — a shocking drop for a long-time rugby power.

The Scots could pick only home-based players due to the match taking place outside World Rugby’s international window but they still looked well-placed for victory after a crunching tackle in midfield from Mark Bennett led to the ball spilling loose and Kinghorn hacking it forward from inside his own half before going over for a try.

That converted score built on an 11th-minute try from fullback Ollie Smith, which Bernard Foley counteracted with two penalties to give Australia a 6-5 halftime lead.

On the hour mark, Jack Dempsey came on for his Scotland debut against the country of his birth, for whom the Sydney-born No. 8 made 14 appearances before switching allegiances under World Rugby’s birthright transfer rules thanks to having a Scottish grandfather.

Unfortunately for Dempsey, that was around the time Australia launched its comeback after Young was yellow-carded for a dangerous clear-out on scrumhalf Tate McDermott.

Scotland plays Fiji, New Zealand and Argentina next month, while Australia head to Paris to take on France ahead of matches against Italy, Ireland and Wales.

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