EDINBURGH • Wallabies coach Michael Cheika did not believe Sekope Kepu's red card was a "turning point" in Australia's wretched end to the year in Scotland, a 53-24 drubbing in their worst defeat by a northern-hemisphere team in more than a century of Test rugby.
The prop was dismissed in the 38th minute of Saturday's Murrayfield Test for a shoulder barge to the head of Hamish Watson with the visitors leading 12-10, but Cheika was not looking for excuses.
"I don't think it was the story of the game, I thought we still could have won with 14, to be honest... It's unfortunate but definitely not the red card - that happens in matches," he said. "I don't think it was a turning point."
He said he had not had a chance to have a good look at the incident but felt Kepu, who was cleaning out at a ruck, had not intentionally made contact with Watson's head.
"Referee didn't have much alternative," he said. "But the player's leg goes from underneath him, he slips and goes lower than where Kepu's aiming. (TV pictures will) show that's where the contact was made, but I don't think there's any intent for Kepu to go there."
The defeat, the second at the hands of the resurgent Scots this year, came on the back of a 30-6 loss to England last week, which was also a record reverse.
Australia will finish the year with a record of seven wins, including one against New Zealand, five losses and the two draws with South Africa in the Rugby Championship.
Cheika, who has handed out more than two dozen Test debuts over the two years since the last World Cup, said he felt his team were on the right trajectory.
He told the Sydney Morning Herald: "We just need to take that extra little step of maturity and we did a lot of good things this season, despite what some of you guys think in particular."