Scotland suffered their second Rugby World Cup setback, falling 14-12 against Australia in Whangarei.
Lana Skeldon’s touchdown and a penalty try gave Bryan Easson’s team a 12-0 halftime lead, but Australia returned strongly in the second half.
The Wallaroos scored two goals thanks to Bienne Terita and Ashley Marsters as they concluded the exhausting game with 13 players.
Scotland must defeat New Zealand the following Saturday to maintain their chances of moving on.
The defensive play of Molly Wright and Emma Orr helped Scotland get off to a strong start, and when they booted a penalty into the corner, Skeldon dove over for her second World Cup try.
Australia found it difficult to establish a rhythm throughout the initial exchanges. Scotland’s defensive discipline resulted in shaky exits and an inability to cross the gain line reliably.
Following consistent pressure on the Australian try-line, Scotland increased their advantage. Adiana Talakai, an Australia hooker, stopped a second menacing rolling maul illegally, and referee Lauren Jenner marched beneath the posts to call a penalty try and sin-bin Talakai.
Australia did inside the Scotland 22 thanks to a blistering 50-meter burst from Eva Karpani as halftime loomed, but Scotland held on to take a 12-0 advantage into the break.
Once the second half started, Jay Tregonning’s squad improved, propelled by some enormous carries by Karpani. However, Scotland’s tenacious defense and handling mistakes prevented them from scoring.
However, it only took a short while for possession and territory to be converted into points, and Australia managed to score after an hour. After a series of phases within Scotland 22, Terita walked over to the corner.
After a heavy tackle on Scotland captain Rachel Malcolm, Terita was lucky not to get a card of any color, and the excellent winger took advantage of her reprieve.
She broke a few tackles to advance Australia into Scots territory, and on the next play, Marsters sprinted in to score. Australia took the lead for the first time when Lori Cramer missed the conversion.
Following Marsters’ dismissal for a violent challenge, Australia was down to 14 players. However, it had to play the final phases with only 13 when Talakai was dismissed after multiple penalties went Scotland’s way.
Scotland, who had the edge in numbers, gave Australia their all in the last minutes but could not score the goal that would have given them a historic victory.
After the game, Malcolm observed, “It’s quite challenging. “We demonstrated far more from an offensive standpoint than we did the previous week. However, I’m thrilled with the ladies’ attitude and effort today. Unfortunately, we couldn’t complete the task, but our defense kept us in the game.”