Cheika relieved to ‘escape’

Date published: October 18 2015

Australia head coach Michael Cheika praised his team for doing all they could to snatch victory from Scotland in Sunday's epic quarter-final at Twickenham.

The Wallabies need a controversial late penalty to edge out the gallant Scots 35-34 and set up clash with Argentina in the semi-finals.

It could be argued that Australia should never have allowed themselves to get into such a tight position, having outscored Scotland five tries to three.

But a below-par kicking display from Bernard Foley and a late intercept try left them scratching for anything that would get a positive result. 

"Usually if you kick a goal at the end of the game to win, it's a pretty good escape," admitted Cheika.

"Saying that, if you score five tries, then you expect to be near the winning side. Maybe it was naive of me to open it up and bring them into the game but we wanted to play to our identity which is to play running footy.

"When the goal went over for Scotland, many teams would have thought 'let's go home, we have had a good run'. I just liked the way we got back into the game any way we could.

"We had a charge down and an intercept, so poor decisions there"

Cheika was unwilling to comment on the performance of referee Craig Joubert nor the late decision to award Australia a controversial winning penalty. 

"After many years of experience and sometimes saying the wrong things immediately after the game, I've learnt you can't really tell because you're making decision based on your natural bias while the game is on, so it's not until you go back and watch all the decisions that you can make your assessments," said Cheika.

"Because of a couple of things that have happened to me over my career, I have become quite neutral on these things.

"As long as rugby's been around that's just what it is and you just need to live with it."      

Cheika pointed to the pool draw which lumped four of the world's top sides into one group as the cause for the all-Southern Hemisphere semi-final line up. 

"It is probably a bit of a result of the pool we were in two of the top northern hemisphere teams (Wales and England)," he explained. 

"There was always a possibility that one of the main Northern Hemisphere teams would go out and then the southern hemisphere teams would have four teams in the quarters which is what happened.

"It does mean everyone knows each other very well. I am the junior member of the Rugby Championship, the other coaches have got more experience than me but we will prepare as best we can and put a performance together on Sunday."

Cheika credited Scotland head coach Vern Cotter for turning the Sin Nations wooden-spooners intro World Cup quarter-finalists. 

"I am a big believer that having good people involved, it's inevitable that teams improve," he said. 

"I know Vern Cotter (coach) and Nathan Hines very well. The rugby skills that surround these people are really going to lead to that team becoming a better side.

"I knew the game was going to be very tight and I was sure it was going to go down to the last minute of the game."

Wallaby skipper Stephen Moore took winning his 100th cap in his stride.

"I think these kind of things are a bit of a distraction," he said.  

"I'm glad we don't have any of those next week. Rugby's a team game that's why I play it. I am obviously very honoured but, for me, it's something you look back on when you retire. I am just proud of the boys the way they knuckled down at the end."