Australia progress to Rugby World Cup semi-finals

Sydney, Oct 19 (IANS) Australia woke up with a sigh of relief on Monday morning after a last minute penalty saw the Wallabies rugby union team progress to the Rugby World Cup semi-finals.

Australian Bernard Foley converted a last minute controversial penalty, awarded by South African referee Craig Joubert, to destroy Scotland’s hopes of progressing in a heart stopping 35-34 win, Xinhua reported.

The underdog Scotland had put Australia under pressure most of the topsy-turvy match, leading up until the final minute when Joubert ruled Scotland’s replacement forward Jon Welsh for an offside infringement, giving Australia’s “Iceman” Bernard Foley a shot at goal to take the one-point victory.

Local media on Monday morning said despite the controversial penalty, which was awarded off a fumbled ball at the back of a line-out had also touched an Australian player, Australia earned the right to play an in-form Argentina in the Rugby World Cup semi-final next week.

“Australia deserved the win,” The Australian chief sports writer Wayne Smith wrote on Monday.

“Australia scored five tries to three, and certainly two of the Celtic scores were fortunate indeed,” referring to the two tries, or touchdowns, awarded from a lucky interception and a blocked kick, known as a charge down.

Australia’s win, however, will be debated in local and international media with commentators and critics divided on the validity of the last minute penalty, of which Joubert was reportedly in two minds about.

“It’s a penalty and that’s the way it works, it works in all games, he’s got to kick it once you get it,” Australian coach Michael Cheika told reporters after the battle.

Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw told the BBC he had asked the referee about the penalty on several occasions as he want to make sure what protocol was.

“I think you can see from the way he was taking his time – he was certainly having a look at the big screen and wasn’t sure himself,” Laidlaw said.

“And then he made a sharp exit at the end of the game, that’s for sure. I never got a chance to speak to him after the game, he was off that quick.”

Joubert sadly was abused and had at least one bottle thrown at him by irate Scottish fans, running off the field as soon as he blew the whistle.

Australia will now need to regain their composure after the narrow win and bring the blistering defence they showed against Wales to exit the pool-stages when they play Argentina at the Rugby World Cup semi-final this coming Sunday.

World Rugby Union heavyweights and defending champions New Zealand will take on the South Africa in the other semi-final on Saturday.

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