AUCKLAND, New Zealand - After a second and more devastating last-ditch loss in as many weeks, Andy Robinson's Scotland squad was relying on a rugby exile to help produce the unthinkable upset win it needed to stay in the Rugby World Cup.
Scotland couldn't beat Argentina, conceding a late try to lose 13-12 last weekend to leave it needing to beat 2003 champion England by eight points Saturday to guarantee survival at the World Cup.
That was looking good at 12-3 approaching the hour mark on Saturday night. A narrower win was still on the cards until three minutes from time, when Chris Ashton crossed to give England a 16-12 win.
That left them the needing ex Scotland player and coach Richie Dixon's Georgia squad to beat Argentina on Sunday, without conceding a bonus point.
The Georgians played with tremendous pluck, scoring a try just before halftime to take a 7-5 lead a the break. But the Pumas scored 20 unanswered points in the second half to secure second spot in Pool B behind unbeaten England and send Scotland out of the tournament.
It was the first time Scotland has failed to progress to the knockout stage of the World Cup.
Scotland brought all the intensity and passion that it could muster against England, continuing a tense rivalry that is the oldest in international rugby. The weather conditions helped make it feel like Murrayfield, with rain during the anthems making the field slippery and the ball greasy, but it wasn't quite enough. Scotland hadn't beaten England by eight points in 25 years and hadn't beaten its traditional foe away from home in that time, either.
After leading 12-3 going into the last quarter, Scotland conceded 13 unanswered points — including Ashton's try in the 78th minute.
"The big thing is the sport is won and lost by inches, and in both games when it's come to winning the game we've lost out," he said. "I've got to give every credit to the side, they've gone out and given it everything.
"We're severely disappointed to lose the game — as we were last week — but there's a great spirit among the boys."
The Scots didn't do themselves any favours in the tournament, struggling early before putting Romania away 34-24 in their opening match at Invercargill before behind held 15-6 by Georgia.
The attacking limitations were exposed in those games, and more so in the loss to Argentina. With a bigger, faster backline selected, with orders to be direct, the Scots were certainly vigorous with the ball but couldn't breach an England defence that had conceded only one try in the tournament.
Scotland skipper Alastair Kellock was convinced his team's run was over straight after the England match, not giving Georgia much chance of beating Argentina — which finished third in 2007 — only four days after beating Romania for only its second win ever at the World Cup.
"Once again we slipped at the crucial times. We are going home now ... I am gutted," he said. "We were in a difficult group but we had the opportunities to win last week's game and the same this week, but we didn't take them. Good luck to England."