The trusty boot of Sydney University Football Club five-eight Bernard Foley helped the Wallabies to a 16-15 win over Scotland in the opening match of their European tour played at Murrayfield on Saturday.
Foley potted three penalty goals and a conversion from as many attempts to live up to his nickname, The Iceman.
His Scottish counterpart, Blair Kinghorn had a day of highs and lows. He scored one of Scotland’s two tries and set up the other. He converted one and landed a penalty goal. But he missed one conversion and then a crucial second penalty goal attempt from almost in front of the posts right on full-time that would have won the match.
Scotland led 15-6 going into the final quarter, but the match turned Australia’s way when Scotland replacement Glen Young was sin-binned for a dangerous challenge on Australia scrum-half Tate McDermott. With Scotland a man down, Australia captain James Slipper forced his way over for a converted try before Foley’s penalty nudged the Wallabies a point in front 10 minutes from time. They held on to win.
SUFC has six current and former club players in the 36-man Wallabies squad for the Spring Tour of the Northern Hemisphere. Foley was the only one selected in the run-on side for the opening Test, with hooker Folau Fainga’a coming off the bench.
Halfback Jake Gordon was a surprise omission when coach Dave Rennie named the squad to take on Scotland, while props Sam Talakai and Tom Robertson and lock Will Skelton were saved for other matches on the five-week tour, which includes Tests against France, Italy, Ireland and Wales. Lock Matt Philip was initially selected for the tour but was ruled out when he ruptured an ACL just days before they departed.
Skelton, now one of the best locks in world rugby, and Foley, who has been playing his trade in Japan, were welcome returnees into Wallaby jerseys. Skelton played for La Rochelle in the tough French Top 14 competition, while Foley played for Kubota Spears in the Japan League.
Coach Rennie said he is using the tour to hone a side for next year’s World Cup. “We have a massive opportunity over the five matches to test ourselves against some of the best teams in the world and string together some performances that our supporters are proud of back home, he said.
“The advantage of playing five Tests, as opposed to three is we just have to get as much footy into these young men as possible. Five Tests now, five leading into the World Cup is 10, and then that will take out boys to around 30 Tests by the time we kick off at the World Cup. We reckon that’s going to be really important.”
The Wallabies next play Six Nations Grand Slam champions France, the 2023 World Cup hosts, in Paris on Saturday.