Heartbreak for Scotland as attention turns to referee Joubert after crucial call
Scotland appeared to have been robbed of a place in the Wold Cup semi-finals by referee Craig Joubert after Australia were awarded an incorrect penalty that Bernard Foley kicked to clinch a last-gasp 35-34 victory.
Having seized a 34-32 lead in the 74th minute through a converted Mark Bennett try, Scotland were left shattered when Joubert penalised replacement prop Jon Welsh for offside and Foley obliged with the three points.
Joubert blew the final whistle at Twickenham and then sprinted from the pitch amid a crescendo of boos, knowing he had made a hugely unpopular decision which later proved to be erroneous.
Australia scrum-half Nick Phipps admitted after the match he had deliberately attempted to win the loose ball that then struck Scotland openside John Hardie, his intent clearing Hardie of any transgression.
"I think everyone was trying to win the ball. We were all going for it," Phipps said.
Joubert's judgement and rapid departure from the field provoked a furious response from former players of all nationalities.
Scotland great Gavin Hastings said: "If I see referee Craig Joubert again, I am going to tell him how disgusted I am. It was disgraceful that he ran straight off the pitch at the end like that."
Also among the many outraged voices was former England scrum-half Matt Dawson, who said on Twitter: "Craig Joubert you are a disgrace and should never referee again!! How dare you sprint off the pitch after that decision!!!"
World Rugby responded to dismay over why the TMO was not consulted by stating that the technology can only be used for the act of scoring a try or an act of foul play.
Dejected Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw, who kicked 19 points, highlighted Joubert's uncertainty when making the decision that denied the RBS 6 Nations representation in the semi-finals for the first time in World Cup history.
"I asked Joubert (about the penalty) on several occasions. I'm not sure what the protocols are," Laidlaw said.
"I think you can see from the way he was taking his time....he was certainly having a look at the big screen and wasn't sure himself.
"And then he made a sharp exit at the end of the game, that's for sure. I never got a chance to speak to him after the game, he was off that quick.
"It looked like to me that it hit Nick Phipps and it went back and then another player caught it. I've not had a chance to look at it on the TV, but at the time I thought there was an Aussie arm. But we're not the type of people to blame the little things."
Twickenham was willing Scotland on to victory in one of the great World Cup quarter-finals and they appeared to have done enough to have toppled the second favourites with tries from Peter Horne, Tommy Seymour and Bennett - until Joubert intervened.
"At this moment in time it's very hard to take. It's a very upset dressing room as you can imagine. We've made big strides since the Six Nations," Laidlaw said.
"We were one kick away from being in the semi-finals and arguably we should have been there.
"Now's not the time to move forward, we need to get over this disappointment first. We've got the makings of a strong team.
"The spirit of our side is unbreakable at times and that's the spirit we've had throughout the tournament.
"We're a tight-knit group and there are no egos. Every man works as hard as the next."
Scotland head coach Vern Cotter observed a dignified silence over the decision that set up a semi-final between Australia and Argentina at Twickenham next Sunday.
"I didn't see the referee leave the pitch so I have no idea about that. We'll take time to review the end of the game properly. We need to take the emotion out of it," Cotter said.
"I feel for these guys. It was a tough day and you can question those fine margins.
"They stayed in the game and I'm proud of them as men and as rugby players. It's a tough one to take."
Scotland also nursed a sense of grievance over an illegal tackle by Drew Mitchell on Stuart Hogg just before the ill-fated line-out that led to the desperate scramble for the ball.
And barely a minute into the second half wing Sean Maitland was harshly sent to the sin-bin by Joubert for a deliberate knock-on when he appeared to be genuinely reaching for the ball.
"I'm not in the referee's or touch judges' positions. They see things and rule on them. If Sean had caught that ball he would probably have scored. And he was thinking ahead. It was a 50-50," Cotter said.
Australia head coach Michael Cheika had little sympathy for Scotland.
He said: "You have to live with the ones you get and the ones you don't. It is what it is and you just deal with it.
"Because of some things that have happened to me in the past, I've become quite neutral on the topic of referees.
"When you score five tries in a World Cup quarter-final, you expect to be somewhere near the winning end of the game."