Wallabies suffer worst ever loss to Scotland as Sekope Kepu is red carded

Edinburgh: The Wallabies saved their worst performance of the year until last and were unable to send Stephen Moore off a winner from the Test arena as Scotland claimed their biggest ever victory against Australia in 90 years. 

Scotland played with the same intensity as June when they knocked the Wallabies and did so in even more spectacular fashion this time around on route to a 53-24 win at Murrayfield on Saturday. 

Scotland's Ali Price dives in to score his side's second try. Photo: ANDREW MILLIGAN

Scotland's Ali Price dives in to score his side's second try. Photo: ANDREW MILLIGAN

Gregor Townsend's men scored a staggering eight tries to Australia's four and in doing so chalked up more points than they ever have against the Wallabies dating back to 1927.

The result was the Wallabies' biggest loss of 2017 and largest against a team outside of New Zealand since 2008 when they were smashed by South Africa 53-8. 

Scotland's Finn Russell is brought down by Australian players. Photo: ANDREW MILLIGAN

Scotland's Finn Russell is brought down by Australian players. Photo: ANDREW MILLIGAN

But it was Sekope Kepu's red card in the 40th minute that turned the game on its head. 

The good work of two Wallabies tries in the space of five minutes before half-time was undone when Kepu had what could not be described as anything else but a brain explosion.

Charging into a ruck trying to clear a player out, Kepu's shoulder crashed into the head of Hamish Watson, giving referee Pascal Gauzere no other option but to send the Australian tight-head off. 

He became the first Wallaby to be shown a red card since Tevita Kuridrani in 2013 against Ireland for a tip tackle that saw him suspended for five weeks. 

Cheika accepted the referee's decision and said his team could have come away victorious despite being reduced to 14 men. 

"I don't think it was the story of the game," Cheika said. "I thought we still could have won with 14 to be honest. The referee really didn't have much alternative.

"You're able to play with 14 players, it's not ideal, obviously. I don't see the red card as an excuse at all for losing that game." 

Although Cheika tried to claim Watson fell before contact was made, replays suggested otherwise. 

"He's got no intent to take the player in the head," Cheika said. "The player when you watch him, his back leg slips underneath him, so he gets lowered ... lower than where Kepu is aiming and it's going to show that that's where the contact was made but there's no intent for Kepu to go there." 

Captain Michael Hooper said: "It's frustrating. Guys [were] starting to think about a couple of other things in the game rather than focusing on the here and the now. They took their opportunities well tonight."

The Wallabies lacked spark and appeared to be running on tired legs in their 14th Test of the year. 

The defensive holes that were plugged so well throughout the back-end of the Rugby Championship reappeared and Michael Hooper's men did not live up their world No.3 ranking, slumping to their third defeat to Scotland in six matches. 

"We just need to take that extra little step of maturity and we did a lot of good things this season despite what some of you guys think in particular," Cheika said. "I'm really proud of the team. I know it didn't go well for us today." 

When Moore came from the field, he was given a warm applause on a freezing afternoon at Murrayfield but was not given the send-off he deserved by his Wallabies teammates. 

If anyone deserves to go out a winner, it is Moore, which is why Australia will be bitterly disappointed at how terrible they were when it counted. 

"I don't think a player's career is summarised by one match, any match or a moment in the game," Cheika said. "His attitude and character will be imprinted on this squad going forward."

Scotland picked up where they left off last week against New Zealand by continually asking questions of the Wallabies defence. 

While the hosts missed the odd lineout and kick for touch, they scored the first points of the day after Hooper – a serial offender on the spring tour – and Sean McMahon were penalised for being offside. 

Things got worse for the Wallabies minutes later when a sloppy back line move, that came about because of a wayward Bernard Foley pass, was seized upon by Scottish winger Byron McGuigan. 

He kicked ahead and beat Reece Hodge to the ball to ultimately set up a 10-0 lead, just as Scotland managed to do this time last year at the same venue. 

The Wallabies lacked polish and creativity in the back line and on the evidence presented have taken a backwards step since their gallant All Blacks victory in October. 

It took an astute left-footed grubber kick from Foley and some quick thinking from Kuridrani to get the Wallabies in the contest. 

The pair combined just four minutes later in similar fashion as Kuridrani grabbed a double to go with his hat-trick against Japan three weeks ago. 

As Foley has done so many times for the Wallabies, his injection at key moments and ability to think outside the box got the visitors into the game. 

His left-foot stab is a valuable weapon and even more so if players like Kuridrani are alert and ready. 

After Kepu was sent from the field, Cheika would have had steam coming out his ears when Scotland capitalised on an extra player to score in the 40th minute and go into the break with a 17-12 lead. 

Beale snared his own five-pointer by backing himself near the line to start the second half but whenever the Wallabies looked to be gaining ascendancy, Scotland hit back. 

Sean Maitland, Jonny Gray, Huw Jones, McGuigan and Stuart McInally crashed over the second half to leave the Australians stunned. 

Lopeti Timani snared his first Test try in the 69th minute to bring the margin back to 15 points but it was in vain as Australia, for the third year in a row, will walk away from their final game of the year with heads well and truly down.

This story first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald