Scotland take their chances against Italy
Scotland 34 Italy 10:Stuart Hogg’s 90-metre sprint was the highlight of a four-try display from Scotland but the scoreline against Italy flattered the homeside at Murrayfield. Hogg’s interception followed Tim Visser’s fifth try in seven internationals and Matt Scott’s first as Scotland bounced back from their opening defeat by England.
Sean Lamont claimed another breakaway and Greig Laidlaw produced a perfect kicking display before Alessandro Zanni got a late consolation try for Italy.
Scotland improved immensely from the defeat in London and kept Italy out of their 22 for virtually the whole first half. They had the game wrapped up with two more tries within six minutes of the restart and produced a strong defensive display to keep out Italy for most of the second half despite the visitors dominating possession.
Scotland interim head coach Scott Johnson had only made two changes from the team that lost 38-18 at Twickenham, both of them enforced with hooker Ross Ford and flanker Robert Harley, making his first Scotland start, replacing the injured Dougie Hall and Alasdair Strokosch.
Italy came to Edinburgh on a high following victory over France and were looking for their fifth victory in seven Six Nations encounters with the Scots.
Last weekend’s results had made Scotland odds-on favourites for a second consecutive wooden spoon but the hosts almost got off the mark inside two minutes when Laidlaw’s measured kick initially fell perfectly into the path of Visser on the right wing. But the ball took an awkward bounce two metres from the line and drifted out of play as the Dutchman looked set to cross.
Luciano Orquera hit the post with a 38-metre penalty for Italy and Scotland stood up well to some pressure before the stand-off handed the hosts the chance to attack when he miscontrolled Hogg’s kick.
Richie Gray spearheaded Scotland’s resulting foray forward but some suspect handling gradually pushed the Scots back. However, hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini was penalised for an earlier infringement and Laidlaw kicked the opening points from about 30 metres.
Scotland were soon back in the Italian 22 but Ruaridh Jackson’s crossfield kick failed to come off. However, South African referee Jaco Peyper pulled the Italians up for collapsing the maul seconds beforehand and Laidlaw kicked right in the middle of the posts from near the touchline to make it 6-0.
Scotland kept the pressure on and winger Giovanbattista Venditti gifted them a chance when he took a fresh-air kick. Ryan Grant picked up the ball and fed Scott to run down the left wing but scrum-half Tobias Botes produced a superb saving tackle from behind.