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14-man Wallabies score late to beat Scotland 23-22

Associated Press Associated Press 12/11/2016

EDINBURGH, Scotland — Australia was halfway to a grand slam after beating Scotland 23-22 from behind with five minutes left in regulation and a man down at Murrayfield on Saturday.

The Wallabies never led on the scoreboard until the 76th minute, when Bernard Foley converted tackle-busting center Tevita Kuridrani's try beside the right post of a thrilling match.

This was their first matchup since their unforgettable Rugby World Cup quarterfinal a year ago, when Australia benefited from a wrongly given penalty, and Foley made the last-minute kick for victory. There was no disputing the result this time.

Australia dominated the second half, but undermined its desperate effort with poor decisions against a Scotland side which brought an energy, inspiration, and gameplan Wales failed to show last weekend.

Australia was out-scored three tries to two, but Scotland wilted under considerable pressure - especially in the scrums - and Foley was perfect from the tee, making all five of his goalkicks.

Australia's comeback almost foundered 11 minutes from time when replacement lock Will Skelton, given his first cap since August, was sin-binned for a shoulder charge on counterpart Jonny Gray in a ruck. Referee John Lacey had awarded Australia a penalty five meters from Scotland's tryline, but reversed it after a video review of Skelton's silliness.

The Wallabies still managed to force penalties to pin Scotland in its own half, and won an attacking lineout. The ball was freed and Kuridrani, at second receiver, stepped outside Peter Horne, slipped opposite Huw Jones, and appeared to be stopped by Scotland fullback Stuart Hogg, but spun and fully stretched out to plant the ball on the line.

A raucous Murrayfield, not quite sold out but featuring a record crowd of 65,295 for an Australia match, finally went silent, and Foley made the match-winning conversion.

"Bit too close for comfort," Australia captain Stephen Moore said. "Just fortunate we came out on the good side."

The Wallabies play France next weekend, then pick up their bid for a second ever grand slam against Ireland on Nov. 26, finishing with England on Dec. 3.

Scotland raced to 10-0, its first try starting 55 meters out. Off lineout ball, flyhalf Finn Russell chipped, and the bounce beat Australia fullback Israel Folau, but not Jones, who scampered away untouched.

Australia was quick to reply with a wonderful set-piece move. Foley looped around Folau, the Scottish backs hesitated, and winger Dane Haylett-Petty offloaded to bursting inside center Reece Hodge, who was too close to the line to be denied.

Jones intercepted Wallabies scrumhalf Will Genia to save a certain try, and while Foley's second goalkick evened the scoreline, Jones stepped Kuridrani and scored to help Scotland go into the break 17-10 up.

The Wallabies committed 10 turnovers against Scotland's superb defence in the half, but they kept at it, even after Gray bulled his way over in the 48th. Laidlaw's conversion hit the post, and Scotland led 22-13.

"If it had (gone through) we were probably home and hosed," Laidlaw said.

Australia, giving away only two penalties in the second half, proceeded to blow chance after chance. Folau offloaded twice when he should have held, and Foley and Hodge twice failed to connect at full speed, conceding knock-ons.

But just when they appeared to have blown it, Kuridrani broke the tired Scots.

"Absolutely heartbroken," Jones said. "We thought we were going to hold on there."

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