A controversial last-gasp penalty by Bernard Foley earned Australia a 35-34 victory at Twickenham yesterday that broke Scottish hearts and sent the Wallabies into a World Cup semi-final against Argentina.
Scotland had been on the verge of a stunning upset with 79 minutes on the clock but South African referee Craig Joubert awarded Australia a penalty for offside, despite the ball appearing to come off a Wallaby shirt.
Amid a cacophony of boos, flyhalf Foley kept his composure to split the posts and ensure the World Cup would have four southern hemisphere semi-finalists for the first time.
New Zealand and South Africa will meet in the other semi-final, both games back at Twickenham next weekend.
The battle between the winners of the Rugby Championship and the side who finished last in the Six Nations after losing every game looked a mismatch on paper but there was nothing between them in what developed into an epic see-saw battle.
Foley, so deadly from the tee earlier in the tournament, missed three conversions to allow Scotland to change round with an unlikely 16-15 lead.
The Wallabies had never won a World Cup match having trailed at the break but it took them only three minutes to regain the lead after Scotland wing Sean Maitland was yellow carded for a deliberate knock-on.
Australia again kicked for touch, mauled forward and sent Mitchell straight through the hole where Maitland should have been.
Five minutes later they repeated the trick on the other wing, Ashley-Cooper crossing, only for the TMO to chalk it off for a knock on.
Scotland continued to show real adventure with the ball and got back to within a point when Finn Russell charged down a Foley kick then kept his wits about him when he was tackled, popping the ball up for Tommy Seymour to score.
Again Australia hit back as Kuridrani scored their fifth try and, with Foley’s conversion, the lead was opened to 32-24.
Another Laidlaw penalty, and an unexpected downpour, gave Scotland new hope going into the final 10 minutes.
That turned into a deafening roar when Mark Bennett intercepted a James Slipper pass to level, with Laidlaw’s conversion putting the Scots two points ahead and dreaming of their first semi since 1991.
Australia, however, as they so often do, mustered one more attack and, despite Scottish pleas to the referee to go to the Television Match Official, took full advantage of their last-gasp escape route to stay in the hunt for a third World Cup.
Earlier, Argentina stunned an injury-depleted Ireland with an early onslaught and finished at a canter to secure a 43-20 victory that sent them into the semi-finals for the second time.
Blistering two-try opening and closing salvos allied with the assured place-kicking of flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez earned Argentina a Twickenham meeting with Australia.
Early tries from centre Matias Moroni and winger Juan Imhoff silenced the passionate Irish following in the 72,316 Millennium Stadium crowd and when Sanchez kicked the first of his five penalties, the Pumas were 17-0 up after 14 minutes.
Ireland fought back with tries from Luke Fitzgerald in the 24th minute and flanker Jordi Murphy shortly after the break to cut the deficit to 20-17, but three points was as close as the Irish would get.
Sanchez kept the scoreboard ticking over and clinical finishing from fullback Joaquin Tuculet and Imhoff for tries in the last 11 minutes ensured Argentina would match their breakthrough achievement of reaching the last four in 2007.
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