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The Wallaroos’ hopes of the reaching the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals remain alive after they scrapped their way to a heart-stopping 14-12 victory over Scotland.
The Australians were on shaky ground on Saturday at Whangarei, only hitting the lead in the 72nd minute after reserve hooker Ashley Marsters dragged Scottish defenders over the line.
Fullback Lori Cramer then converted the try to go ahead 14-12.
But the Wallaroos faced a nervous final five minutes when Marsters was sent off for a high tackle.
She was replaced by starting hooker Adiana Talakai, but she was also sent off for a high shot with the offence escalated to a red card after she had already had a yellow card in the first half.
The Scots kept the ball in play before Australia were able to force a penalty at the breakdown in the 83rd minute to secure the win.
“It was nerve-wracking. It was a real tough battle against Scotland, they really showed us how to play some footy there today,” Wallaroos captain Shannon Parry told Stan Sport.
“I’m immensely proud. We gutted it out all the way to the end – an 80 minute performance – and to come away with that victory, it’s a really good reward.
“We didn’t play as good, as clinical as we wanted to but we’ll take the points. We’re still alive in this tournament, and that’s what matters.”
Having opened their campaign with a defeat against hosts New Zealand, and with the top two advancing to the quarter-finals, the Wallaroos desperately needed the victory over their 10th-ranked opponents.
Unlike their match against the Black Ferns, where they raced to a 17-0 lead before being overhauled, the Australians struggled to find tries.
They were unable to take advantage of the efforts of barnstorming No.8 Grace Hamilton and hardworking props Eva Karpani and Liz Patu.
With a strong wind at their backs, the Wallaroos finally got across the line in the 58th minute when teenage winger Bienne Terita scored her third try of the tournament after a build-up of 12 phases.
That closed the gap to 12-7 after Scotland had earlier mauled the ball, with Lana Skeldon collecting the spoils in the eighth minute.
They were also awarded a penalty try in the 26th minute with Talakai also yellow-carded for illegally trying to collapse their maul after repeated team infringements.
Down 12-0 at halftime, the Wallaroos had to dig deep but with coach Jay Tregonning emptying his bench they wore down the steely Scots’ defence.
In other results, USA defeated Japan 30-17 to boost their quarter-final hopes.
The Americans found themselves struggling to score points in the first 50 minutes but were finally able to click into gear, finishing Japan off with 17 unanswered points.
“We just came out with a little more belief this time around,” US captain Kate Zackary said.
“We came here to have a performance today, we needed a performance and the girls showed up. We needed to shine in that second half and every player did, one through 23.”
Englad then triumphed over France in the final match of the day.
Centre Emily Scarratt scored all of England’s points as they claimed a tense 13-7 victory over France in their women’s Rugby World Cup Pool C clash at the Northland Events Centre in Whangarei on Saturday to record a 27th consecutive Test win.
England qualify for the quarter-finals having dominated territory and possession, but France stayed in the contest to the end with superb defence as Scarratt managed a converted try and two penalties.