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2021 Throwback: Best Matches

2021 Throwback: Best Matches

Penaud France Autumn

Scotland will take on Australia in the opening match of this year’s Autumn Nations Series on 29th October at BT Murrayfield so to get ready for that encounter, there is no better time to look back at some of last year’s best tussles.

Whenever the southern hemisphere giants of New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina and Australia make their way to these shores, there are always exhilarating match-ups and with the World Cup just over a year away, all involved will be desperate to leave an impression on their opposite number.

With that in mind, let’s take a short trip down memory lane and look back at five of last year’s clashes which had fans delirious and despondent in equal measure.

Scotland 15-13 Australia

Ewan Ashman

Scotland continued their winning start to the Autumn Nations Series with their third successive win over the Wallabies at BT Murrayfield in November, a week on from an opening success against Tonga.

Hamish Watson’s early try, converted by Finn Russell, gave the hosts a 7-3 advantage at the break after James O’Connor’s 40th-minute penalty.

However, Australia’s one-two punch either side of the interval put them in a commanding position when Rob Leota crossed the line in the 44th minute, his effort successfully converted by O’Connor.

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But it was to be Scotland’s day on this occasion and Ewan Ashman, on debut, restored the Scottish lead.

That advantage changed hands once more with O’Connor’s second penalty of the game but after Russell kicked the home side 15-13 ahead with 11 minutes to play, they were able to withstand Australian pressure and see out the win.

Ireland 29 – 20 New Zealand

Doris moments

Andy Farrell’s men produced a stunning display to secure a landmark victory over New Zealand in front of a jubilant sell-out Aviva Stadium last November.

In a performance which teed up impressive form they would take into the Guinness Six Nations earlier this year, the home side surged into a lead after the break with scores from Ronan Kelleher and Caelan Doris.

The All Blacks had led by five at the interval and soon battled back with a Will Jordan try which reduced the deficit to three with ten minutes remaining.

But Joey Carbery held his nerve on three separate occasions to kick the penalties which secured Ireland’s seventh consecutive victory.

England 27 – 26 South Africa

Marcus Smith Player of the Series

England claimed a conciliatory victory – however scant – for their 2019 World Cup final defeat to South Africa with a dramatic win at Twickenham.

Eddie Jones’ side outfought their opponents and sprung out of the traps to lead 17-6 midway through the first period thanks to tries from Manu Tuilagi and Freddie Steward.

However, two Springbok penalties from Handre Pollard cut the gap to five at the break.

The deficit was cut to two 15 minutes into the second half before quickly turning into a one-point advantage thanks to two further penalties – the first from Pollard then followed by Elton Jantjies.

England’s response came a minute later when Raffi Quirke finished off a brilliant move from first phase.

But with Makazole Mapimpi’s try and Francois Steyn’s penalty, South Africa led 26-24 with only seven minutes remaining.

Pre-match, Jones had predicted his team would have to fight to the game’s close to get a result and they did not disappoint as they scored a 79th-minute penalty courtesy of Marcus Smith’s right boot.

Wales 29 – 28 Australia

Wales overcame Australia in an incident-packed clash at Principality Stadium, but it was the Wallabies who must take much of the credit thanks to a dogged 14-man display that withstood the home side until the very end.

Australia took a fifth-minute lead when Andrew Kellaway went over the line and, after James O’Connor and Dan Biggar traded a conversion and a penalty respectively, the Wallabies led 7-3.

But the game turned on its head on the quarter of the hour mark when Rob Valetini was dismissed for a head-on-head tackle on Adam Beard.

Wales needed little invitation to capitalise on their numerical advantage and led 16-13 at the break thanks to two further penalties from Biggar, and a converted try from Ryan Elias.

Still, two more penalties from O’Connor kept Australia within three.

Wales pressed on in the second period, scoring another converted try eight minutes into the half through Nick Tompkins but Australia’s endeavour was rewarded just after the hour when they hit back with a try of their own.

Nic White cut the arrears to three and although Biggar kicked another penalty through the posts shortly after, when Filipo Daugunu crossed the line and Kurtley Beale dispatched another penalty, the 14 men had a 28-26 lead with only two minutes to play.

Ultimately, Wales were not to be denied when Rhys Priestland’s last-gasp penalty snatched the hard-fought victory.

France 40 – 25 New Zealand

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On the very same night, 430 miles away in Saint-Denis, some 80,000 French fans were in raptures for an historic dismantling of New Zealand – their first win over the All Blacks since 2009.

The away side came into the tie having suffered defeat to Ireland, featured earlier on this list, and were shellshocked by French first-half tries from Peato Mauvaka (2) and Romain Ntamack which gave Les Bleus a 24-6 advantage at the break.

However, New Zealand responded and rendered the French powerless to withstand the impressive resurgence which saw them fight back to trail by only two with 20 minutes to play.

But a spectacular France counter-attack, inspired by the evasive Ntamack, which preceded Damian Penaud’s interception leading to a try secured the landmark victory.

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