Scotland V Australia

Don't stop believing' rang out round the stadium during the build-up and for eighty minutes we didn't. There were lights, there were magic moments - surely none more emotive than JJ Hamilton running into his daddy's arms for the anthems as big Jim Hamilton lined up with Scotland for his 50th cap - and though this was a much-improved performance from kick-off, there was no happy ending come final whistle.Improvement but not enough. Hard work but not clinical enough in the finish. Good phases ruled out by too many mistakes.

"I'm really pleased with the effort - I'm sick of being good losers," summed up head coach Scott Johnson.

"We let ourselves down with the execution - the young kids we have can only get better and the character of the squad is developing."

Youth versus experience - it was to show throughout the match in intelligent passing, missed opportunities, players at each end of the cap scale putting their hands up and others having questions asked.

As both teams came out of the traps firing, it was ping-pong-penalties for much of the opening half with Leali'ifano and Laidlaw trading points to make it 6-6 after 22 minutes, 71-capped Ross Ford having left the field a few minutes earlier with a lower leg issue, to be replaced by Pat MacArthur, winning his third cap.

Then the even run was broken by subsequent man of the match Israel Folau, with a break after sustained pressure on Scotland's defence. It may have been National Cousin's day earlier in the week but any Cooper-Maitland family ties were put out to grass for 80 minutes as the Australian vice-captain, Quade Cooper, was the man delivering the clinical pass to Folau, who dismissed the threat of Ryan Grant to cross the whitewash, Leali'ifano adding the extras.

Two more penalties from Laidlaw narrowed the gap to within a point, Johnnie Beattie made a magnificent 50m break, passing to Maitland - who could have gone further on his own but offloaded to Lamont - and De Luca would have been over the line, had it not been for a pesky knock-on just short of the line. Scotland's first try against Australia in seven years was not to be. As half time was called, it was 12-13.

So far, so possible.

The Scots had shown they could keep up, the exuberance of the crowd willing them along every metre of the pitch, the youth learning from the more experienced with no questions expounded over effort.

"We showed grit, we never wilted," said Johnson later.

"Some [players] put their hands up, some came knocking and that has created some competition."

Despite the flaming re-entry of the teams, hands went up somewhat more gingerly in the second half. After the pace and pressure of the opening forty minutes, this was far more of a stop-start affair. What didn't stop was the scoring from the visitors, Feauai-Sautia making the break to score - eventually, after some TMO action - within two minutes of the restart, Leali'ifano coming up short with the conversion.

An opportunity for the Scots to come back from 12-18 down happened minutes later as Rob Simmons took the short walk to the sin bin, pinged for his fists coming too close to Moray Low. This was our chance. We needed a score. We needed fire in our bellies and points on the board.

Laidlaw duly obliged with another penalty secured but two minutes later the gap reopened as Leali'ifano found his boot again. 15-21. And that's how it stayed.

Yes, there were moments - Chris Cusiter coming on to the pitch for Laidlaw to huge applause, a chance to make up the minutes against Australia after he had to leave the field in the 2009 victory, as captain, after a knock.

Kieran Low made his Scotland debut, as cap number 1051 - and felt the full force of international rugby moments later, on the wrong side of a whacking Wallaby tackle.

There were great set piece moves to secure ball but wild kicks to lose it. Seymour broke up the wing but finished in the middle of an Australian sandwich, bundled into touch in the process.

Leali'ifano missed another penalty, Scotland could still do it, even on 80 minutes, we still had possession, just one converted try ... but it was turnover ball, Australia kicked out and it was all over. We never stopped believing, on and off the pitch, but we need to start getting over the line, finishing with a flourish and points.

"We showed grit," Johnson added. "All in all it was a good, hard-fought Test match with both teams looking to expand their squads."

It was a storybook start to a match we'd all written in our heads - a third win in a row, retaining the Hopetoun Cup that has settled in so well into its Murrayfield home over the last four years - but without the fairy tale finish. Maybe next time? Don't stop believing.

live commentary 6:00 PM Saturday 23 Nov 2013

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