Scotland were happy to play it fast and loose. Having lost 25-21 in Treviso last year, they were anxious to avoid a wrestling match and initially their enterprise looked likely to reap rich rewards.
After two early converted tries, however, they were gradually sucked into a tighter scrap and it was 55 minutes before they touched down again.
Italy had been in the match until that point, but there was nothing left in their armoury apart from impetuosity and a second yellow card brought a 75th-minute dismissal for Massimo Giovanelli for stamping on Eric Peters. It was a decision which incensed the Italian coach, Georges Coste. "I do not wish to discuss the referee, but two weeks ago I saw Martin Johnson do something far worse at Twickenham without being sent off," he said. "You have to understand, my team are still learning. It took France a long time before they managed not to fall for provocation."
Peters later needed 10 stitches, while team-mates Tom Smith and Martin Leslie also required the same treatment, from different incidents. It left a sour taste and Italy will clearly need to improve their discipline as well as bringing more variety to their game if they are to make an impact next season.
A crowd of 26,756 was a distinct improvement on the sparse attendances for the autumn World Cup qualifiers, but the atmosphere was considerably diluted from that of the Five Nations, in which Scotland still have to face Ireland and France.
The match was barely a minute old when Scotland fashioned the simplest of tries. An up and under from Gregor Townsend was competently collected by Javier Pertile, but Scotland swarmed all over him, won the ruck and, despite a laboured pass from Scott Murray, the cover was nowhere as Townsend sent Kenny Logan in. Scotland almost scored again from a darting probe by Iain Fairley, maintaining the finest traditions of lively scrum-halfs from the Borders in the absence through injury of Bryan Redpath and Gary Armstrong. Italy were quick to reply, however, as Luca Martin embarrassed the Scots' midfield by taking the ball into contact following a line-out and wriggling free to score.
It looked for all the world as if this was to be a game of powder-puff defence as straight from the re-start Logan burst through some flimsy tackling and Scotland moved the ball swiftly for Cammy Murray to touch down.
Logan followed his second conversion with a penalty to make it 17-7, but again Italy replied swiftly. An excellent pass from Troncon allowed Pertile to make ground before Martin bounced off Glenn Metcalfe's tackle to score his second try.
The famed boot of Diego Dominguez struck a post from way out on the right, but he was more disappointed to hit the woodwork again with a penalty shortly afterwards. The Scots got in a tangle from the rebound and Metcalfe collided with Martin Leslie, who retired to the blood bin for 10 minutes to be replaced by Northampton's Budge Pountney.
Leslie returned just as Logan landed his second penalty, a straight 40- metre kick to make it 20-12 at half-time. With one miss already behind him, Logan was again off target following Giovanelli's first yellow card offence, and when another bad miss followed Scotland were starting to look jittery.
Townsend came to the rescue with 16 minutes left, accelerating through a gap on the outside as the ball was moved left from a ruck. Logan added the conversion and his third penalty left the Italians with no way back.
Scotland: G Metcalfe (Glasgow Caledonians); C Murray (Edinburgh Reivers), A Tait (Edinburgh Reivers), J Leslie (Sanix), K Logan (Wasps); G Townsend (Brive), I Fairley (Edinburgh Reivers); T Smith (Glasgow Caledonians), G Bulloch (Glasgow Caledonians), P Burnell (London Scottish), S Murray (Bedford), S Grimes (Glasgow Caledonians), P Walton (Newcastle Falcons), E Peters (Bath, capt), M Leslie (Edinburgh Reivers). Replacements: S Longstaff (Glasgow Caledonians) for Tait, 76; G Burns (Edinburgh Reivers) for Fairley, 44; D Hilton (Bath) for Smith, 84; A Reed (Wasps) for Grimes, 79.
Italy: J Pertile (RDS Roma); F Roselli (Benetton Treviso), C Stoica (Narbonne), L Martin (Simac Petrarca Padova), D Dallan (RDS Roma); D Dominguez (Stade Francais), A Troncon (Benetton Treviso); M Cuttitta (Benetton Treviso), A Moscardi (Benetton Treviso), F Properzi-Curti (Benetton Treviso), V Cristofoletto (Benetton Treviso), M Giacheri (West Hartlepool), M Giovanelli (Narbonne, capt), C Checchinato (Benetton Treviso), A Sgorlon (Benetton Treviso). Replacements: S Stocco (Simac Petrarca Padova) for Cristofoletto, 76; C Caione (RDS Roma) for Checchinato, 70.
Referee: R Davies (Wales).Reuse content