Misfiring Wallabies put to the sword by Scotland
December 19, 1981
The 1981 Scotland vintage
© Getty Images
Scotland recorded their sixth win in eight matches against Australia since 1927. Their 24 points remains the record Scottish score in the series and they have won only three of 19 Wallaby encounters since 1981.
This occasion was one of many high points in the career of Andy Irvine who, along with Jim Renwick and David Leslie, had been involved in Scotland's 10-3 victory over Australia in 1975. Four Australians survived from that match, captain Tony Shaw, flanker Greg Cornelsen, hooker John Meadows and centre Paul McLean.
This was McLean's only match at centre in a 30 match Wallaby career spanning eight years. Usually a full back or fly-half, he plugged a gap caused by injuries while his regular positions were capably filled by Roger Gould and the brilliant Mark Ella.
Australia's UK and Ireland tour was dogged throughout by rain, cold and snow and, fittingly, the tour finale against the Barbarians was to be cancelled due to snow, with the Wallabies eventually airlifted by helicopter from their hotel in Porthcawl to Heathrow for their journey home.
By then they had beaten Ireland 16-12, but lost 18-13 to Wales, 15-11 to England and 24-15 to Scotland. However, they scored more tries than the home sides in all four internationals, and while rugby teams are always reluctant to blame their kickers for defeat, McLean's poor form with the boot was more than the margin of defeat in all three losses.
Injuries took their toll too, veteran scrum-half John Hipwell suffering persistently and playing only seven of 23 matches on tour.
Irvine was central to the passage of this match. He had a fine game with flawless place kicking. His fifth penalty drew the scores level immediately after half time and he added a conversion for a then record individual points tally of 17 for Scotland. He was also instrumental in Australia's scores. First, he had an attempted line-kick charged down by Simon Poidevin who went through to score the first try. Then he threw a pass behind debut winger Roger Baird, giving Australia the possession from which McLean kicked across field for left wing Brendan Moon to notch the second try.
Baird made an auspicious start to his international career as a defender but had little opportunity in attack, a scenario encapsulates his Scotland career of 30 matches in which he scored no tries.
The great Andy Irvine © Getty Images
Roy Laidlaw and John Rutherford, Scotland's classy half-back pair for much of the 1980s, were typically smooth, but it was a missed touch-finder from Rutherford that led to the third Wallaby try. Mark Ella made space for Moon, who sent Andrew Slack on an arching run for the corner. Three tries and a penalty from McLean made it emphatically Australia's first half, but the kicker missed all three conversions and, by the end of the match, a further four penalties and a drop-goal attempt.
Irvine kept Scotland in the game with his trusty boot and the Scots were able to exert greater pressure after the break. Nine minutes from time, Rutherford squeezed a drop-goal over from behind a scrum. Two minutes later he hoisted a high kick into Australia's 22 from behind another scrum. Wallaby full-back Gould didn't get a hand on it and the ball bounced favourably for the chasing Renwick to gather and hurtle over for the try that won the match.
They might have scored again in the closing minutes, but for a forward pass from Renwick to Colin Deans in the move. Scotland finished the stronger team, but there were loud echoes of the 1975 match to which the Wallabies had also given so much but also lost to a Renwick try.
An otherwise wholesome match was marred midway through the second half by Shaw felling his opposite number, Bill Cuthbertson, with a full-blooded right hook, under referee Quittenton's nose. He was questioning the referee at the time and already upset by a deliberate knock-on by Alan Tomes, Cuthbertson's constant niggle caused him to lash out. Astonishingly, Quittenton allowed Shaw to remain on the field, deeming the punch 'unpremeditated'.
Shaw was dropped for the England match a fortnight later - that of Erica Roe fame - and his captaincy career was over. He played only two more internationals, both against Scotland.
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