Scotland 15-21 Australia
McKenzie praises Wallabies character
November 23, 2013
Israel Folau bursts clear to score Australia's opening try against Scotland, Scotland v Australia, Murrayfield, Edinburgh, November 23, 2013
Israel Folau bursts clear to score his first-half try © Getty Images

Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie praised the character of his strike-torn side as they put a tumultuous week behind them to guts out a rugged 21-15 win over Scotland at Murrayfield.

McKenzie had predicted it would be a massive test of character and one of the side's greatest challenges after he stood down five players for drinking last week in Dublin, and so it turned out. Australia were forced to make almost twice as many tackles but their defence held firm to keep their goalline intact. The Wallabies took their limited chances with Quade Cooper setting up tries to Israel Folau and Chris Feauai-Sautia.

The inspired Scots, with big lock Jim Hamilton showing the way in his 50th Test, pushed them throughout and had chances in the last five minutes to steal the game as they were urged on by 57,630-strong home crowd. But in the end the Australian pack stood up to repel two dangerous driving mauls and then outstanding skipper Ben Mowen forced a ruck penalty on fulltime. Despite the tightness of the scoreline, a proud McKenzie was pleased with the performance, particularly the stout defence in near-freezing conditions.

"It was never in doubt that it was going to be a complicated game," he said. "It's never been easy to come and play here. I thought we did a pretty good job considering all the circumstances and we handled the night all right. It was a bit too close. If we would have converted a few of our penalty opportunities it would have made it a little bit easier but to me it was a performance about character and that shone through in the end. The desperation there was characteristic of a game that matters."

Folau emphasised his immense worth by producing the million dollar touches in another stand-out display from fullback. He combined brilliantly with five-eighth Cooper to score a try, help set up another and save two. Missing stood-down wingers Adam Ashley-Cooper and Nick Cummins, a patched-up backline received few opportunities with clean ball but Cooper and Folau shone whenever there was a skerrick of an attacking chance.

A rare off day with the boot by goalkicker Christian Leali'ifano, who managed just four from nine, on the boggy Murrayfield loose surface made it even harder for the Wallabies. The visitors looked in trouble when lock Rob Simmons was sin-binned for lashing out at Scottish prop Moray Low, niggling at the back of a ruck, in the 48th minute.

Greig Laidlaw then kicked his fifth penalty from six attempts to draw to 18-15 down and set his side up for a 10-minute assault on Australia. But it was the last points they were to score as the Wallabies forwards repelled the Scots and their outside backs forced a ruck penalty for Leali'ifano to give some breathing space with his third three-pointer. He had three more chances to push the tourists ahead by more than a converted try but failed.

"To hold them out at the end, when the crowd was really getting behind them, it showed really good character through the side," Mowen said. "That was something we spoke a lot about this week. We needed a good reaction from the guys and that was a great feeling at the end to grind out that win."

The Wallabies grind out a 21-15 victory over Scotland (video available in Australia only)

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