Scotland produced one of the day's outstanding performances to hold Australia to a draw and just miss out on a victory over the tournament favourites in their final pool match at the Commonwealth Rugby League Under-19 Nines Championship in Cumbernauld yesterday.
Two late tries were required to save the Australians after tries from the captain Jack Stewart, Harvey Burnett, Richard Harris and Shane Toal had earned the hosts leads of 14-4 and 18-10 before that late rally. Victory alone would not have been enough to take the Scots into the semi-finals of the main draw because they also needed to win by 31 clear points, but there was no question of their opponents taking it lightly because they had to win to take top seeding ahead of pool runners-up Wales.
The Welsh had beaten the under-prepared Scots 18-6 in what proved their crucial first match. However, a try from Burnett was subsequently enough to earn Scotland a 4-0 win against a game Jamaican side and Mark Senter, their stand-in head coach, exuded pride in his team's efforts. "That was all done on the back of three hours' work together, but they've been superb to work with in terms of their attitude," he said. "We changed the defensive structure after the opening game against Wales which made a difference and now we've got to take confidence from what we did against Australia into tomorrow's meeting with South Africa."
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That will be the first of their placings play-offs and the tantalising prospect of a meeting with England looms after they made a shock early exit from title contention to find themselves up against the Jamaicans, with the winners of those two matches meeting for a fifth-place decider.
A 24-4 thrashing from Canada in their opening match was followed by a 16-10 defeat at the hands of Papua New Guinea who went on to beat Canada 22-6 and establish themselves as the biggest threat to Australia. Papua New Guinea will face Wales in the first of the semi-finals and Australia will then face Canada.