Wallabies wins revives memories of 91 epic

Australia will be hoping their heart-stopping quarter-final victory over Scotland will be a sliding doors moment that helps deliver them a third World Cup title.

The extraordinary finish to their 35-34 victory at Twickenham on Sunday (Monday morning AEDT), where all hope appeared lost, revived memories of their previous quarter-final cliffhangers.

All week Wallabies coach Michael Cheika and skipper Stephen Moore, who along with centre Matt Giteau was celebrating his 100th Test, had reminded their team of the 2007 capitulation against England when they were similarly heavily favoured to win.

But until Bernard Foley’s ice-cold 80th minute match-winner, it looked as though the ghosts of Marseille were flooding back.

Instead, Australia buried those ghosts and conjured up a similar get-out-of-jail moment to that of their 1991 quarter-final escape against Ireland, which two weeks later led to Nick Farr-Jones becoming the first Australian to hold aloft the Webb Ellis Cup.

On that occasion, the Wallabies conceded a try to Gordon Hamilton with six minutes remaining to go behind by three points – a not dissimilar scenario to the one which faced them against Scotland when Mark Bennett snatched a wayward interception from bench prop James Slipper to score under the posts and give his side the lead.

In 1991, stand-in captain Michael Lynagh calmly addressed his team and told them how the final moments of the match would play out – from how they’d approach the kick-off, to how they’d score the winning try.

Minutes later it was Lynagh who crossed out wide to extinguish Ireland’s hopes.

Veteran winger Drew Mitchell revealed a similar chat took place on Sunday following Bennett’s seemingly match-winning try.

“It just turned straight to the detail: what type of kick off we were going to use and our roles from that,” he said.

“We just focused on turning the pressure on them by pressuring their kickers or their breakdown and what have you.

“When we saw that guy streak away we still had five minutes and a tremendous amount of belief that if we got down there and applied pressure, we could give ourselves an opportunity and still come away with it.”

As fate would have it, the Wallabies did manage to escape with the unlikeliest of victories thanks to Foley’s clutch kicking and referee Craig Joubert’s erroneous penalty.

But it gave them a chance to emulate the heroics of Farr-Jones’ 1991 World Cup winners, rather than contemplate what went wrong – like the members from 2007’s meltdown have so often wondered.

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