Robinson calls for consistency as Scots avoid wooden spoon

Scotland 21 Italy 8
Click to follow
The Independent Online

The final say in Scotland's Six Nations campaign came from their 104-cap veteran, who produced a piece of brilliance that spoke for itself. At Twickenham the previous Sunday Chris Paterson had gunned down Ben Foden in the left corner with a cover tackle of text-book perfection. With three minutes remaining at Murrayfield on Saturday, and the wooden spoon already safely avoided, the 32-year-old did the same to Luke McLean.

Italy's replacement full-back could not believe it. He slammed his fists down on the Edinburgh turf in sheer frustration. He had got half a yard – maybe even a full yard – ahead of his pursuer, yet still Paterson managed to lasso him around the ankles.

If only "the old boy", as Andy Robinson affectionately referred to his No 15, had been around when Maxime Medard made the first try-scoring incision into the Caledonian defence in the early stages on opening day – setting the messy tone for the Scots in their first three matches – things might not have been quite so disappointing for the nation who entered the championship widely fancied to make an impact as dark horses.

But then the margins have always been wafer-thin for Scotland, given their relative lack of playing resources. Rather like the 12st 8lb Paterson, who started the Six Nations outside the selection frame but has surely played his way into a fourth World Cup, they need to punch above their weight to avoid hitting the canvas.

It was a point that Robinson, Scotland's head coach, chose to underline when reflecting on a frustrating championship and looking ahead to the global challenge to come in New Zealand this autumn. "Scotland, at their very best, have the ability to beat anybody," he said. "But if we drop off in any shape or form against any team, they will beat us. If we do that against Romania or Georgia in our first two pool matches at the World Cup, we'll get beaten by them.

"We won't fear England in Auckland; we showed last week at Twickenham that we can go toe to toe with them. And we won't fear Argentina; we've beaten them away from home. The important thing for us is getting out of the pool and we want to focus on getting out by winning it."

The one win that secured fifth place for Robinson's side in the Six Nations came after they managed to locate and cross the opposition try line for the first time in nine Murrayfield matches – with scores in the third quarter by the replacement centre Nick de Luca and the stand-in wing Nikki Walker. It was a Scottish success built on a solid set-piece platform, with the 6ft 9in Richie Gray producing another stand-out performance in the line-out and in the loose. "The consistency of his performances in the four games he's played has been immense," Robinson said of the young Glasgow lock.

Sadly for the Italians, they could not back up their immense performance against France in Rome the previous week with another towering effort in Scotland's capital. They led 8-6 at the interval, Andrea Masi having rumbled past Walker on his way to an 11th-minute gift of a score, but fell away after their bullocking full-back departed in hamstrung state.

Nick Mallett, their head coach, looks like he may depart too but at least he could savour a rare sight on Saturday – his hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini outpacing Sean Lamont, Scotland's wing-turned-centre, in a race for a ball hacked upfield towards the Italian tryline. "Sean Lamont didn't have to throw in at the line-out or push in the scrum, but still Leonardo was faster than him," Mallett pointed out for good measure.

Scorers: Scotland: Tries De Luca, Walker; Conversion Paterson; Penalties Paterson 3. Italy Try Masi; Penalty Mirco Bergamasco.

Scotland: C Paterson (Edinburgh); N Walker (Ospreys), J Ansbro (Northampton), S Lamont (Scarlets), S Danielli (Ulster); R Jackson (Glasgow), R Lawson (Gloucester); A Jacobsen (Edinburgh), R Ford (Edinburgh), G Cross (Edinburgh), R Gray (Glasgow), A Kellock (Glasgow, capt), N Hines (Leinster), J Barclay (Glasgow), K Brown (Saracens).

Replacements: N De Luca (Edinburgh) for Ansbro, 19; A Strokosch (Gloucester) for Hines, 54; S Lawson (Gloucester) for Ford, 64; E Murray (Newcastle) for Cross, 64; R Vernon (Glasgow) for Brown, 74; D Parks (Cardiff Blues) for Lamont, 78.

Italy: A Masi (Racing Metro); T Benvenuti (Treviso), G Canale (Clermont Auvergne), A Sgarbi (Treviso), Mirco Bergamasco (Racing Metro); K Burton (Treviso), F Semenzato (Treviso), S Perugini (Aironi), L Ghiraldini (Treviso), M Catsrogiovanni (Leicester), C Del Fava (Aironi), Q Geldenhuys (Aironi), A Zanni (Treviso), P Derbyshire (Treviso), S Parisse (Stade Francais, capt).

Replacements L McLean (Treviso) for Masi, 32; V Bernabo (Treviso) for Del Fava, 54; L Orquera (Brive) for Burton, 59; R Barbiera (Treviso) for Derbyshire, 59; A Lo Cicero (Racing Metro) for Perugini, 59; P Canavosio (Aioni) for Sgarbi, 70; C Festuccia (Racing Metro) for Ghiraldini, 78.

Referee S Walsh (ARU).

The match statistics

Scotland - Points - Italy
2 Tries 1
1/2 Conversions 0/1
3/4 Penalties 1/2
0/0 Drop goals 0/0

Phases of play
4 Scrums won4
1 Scrums lost 0
7 Line-outs won 16
1 Line-outs lost 5
14 Pens conceded 9
0 Mauls won 6
14 Ruck and drive 12
70 Ruck and pass 96

Scotland -Team stats - Italy
172 Passes made 189
4 Line breaks 3
29 Possession kicked 13
12 Kicks to touch 2
143 Tackles made 103
7 Tackles missed 6
13 Offloads in tackle 4
5 Total errors made 15

Balls won
84 In open play 114
31In opponent's 22 17
20 At set-pieces 34
5 Turnovers won 2