Six Nations: Italians sent crashing to earth by flying Scots
Scotland 34 Italy 10
So, as you were then. There was no pivotal shifting of the European order here in the west end of Edinburgh yesterday. Just when the Italians were threatening to emerge as a serious Six Nations force on the back of their stunning win against France in Rome last Sunday, Scotland put them back in their place.
They did so in a style which suggested that recent reports of their demise as an international force to be reckoned with have been greatly premature. Picking up the threads of the attacking promise they had shown in defeat at Twickenham the previous Saturday, Scott Johnson's charges showed a clinical edge, with Tim Visser, Matt Scott, Stuart Hogg and Sean Lamont all running in tries to earn what was a vital Scotland victory and only their second in 12 Six Nations matches.
Unlike their experience in the 20-point defeat to England, Scott's Scots managed to get a grip at the breakdown, forcing the opening weekend conquerors of the French into a meltdown so marked that Luciano Orquera, the orchestrator of their Roman conquest, was left looking like Eric Morecambe attempting a Grieg piano concerto.
Italy's one win on the road in the Six Nations was achieved here back in 2007, courtesy of a 21-point start the hosts afforded them in the opening six calamitous minutes. This time it was Scotland who came charging out of the blocks, the former flying Dutchman Visser punching a huge hole in the Italian defence up the left and then coming close to gathering a deft chip from scrum-half Greig Laidlaw into the right corner – all with less than two minutes on the clock.
If nothing else, it set out a stall of intent. But Italy weathered the early storm and had a chance to get the scoreboard ticking in the seventh minute after Scotland lock Jim Hamilton was penalised for a side entry into a ruck. Orquera had the distance with his kick from 42 metres but not quite the precision, his effort bouncing clear off the right post.
As it was, Scotland helped themselves to the lead in the 15th minute, Laidlaw landing his first penalty attempt after Italy had been punished for straying offside to stem an attacking move which took No 8 Johnnie Beattie deep into Italian territory. After 25 minutes the score was 6-0, Laidlaw converting his second penalty.
With their feet comfortably under the table, Scotland proceeded to make themselves at home. Scott might have broken through three minutes later had Tobias Botes, Italy's South Africa-born scrum-half not lassoed the Edinburgh centre just short of the line in the left corner. Undaunted, though, Scotland remained on the front foot and had a try on the board on the half-hour.
It came when the ball squirted awkwardly out of a scrum just inside the Italian 22. Giovanbattista Venditti missed it with a wild kick and loosehead prop Ryan Grant was on it in a flash, feeding the ball onwards for Visser to jink inside Botes and bring his try tally to five in seven Tests as a flying Scot.
Laidlaw's conversion furnished Scotland with a 13-0 cushion and it was all that Italy and their off-key conductor could do to cut the deficit to 13-3 in the final minute of the first half, Orquera slotting a penalty from 40 metres. It proved to be temporary relief for the visitors.
Three minutes into the second half Scotland shipped the ball wide from a line-out on the right. Sean Maitland came into the line from the blindside wing and made the dent and offload that allowed Scott to run in his first try for his country.
By the 48th minute the game was effectively over. Orquera's final act before getting hooked by Italy's coach, Jacques Brunel, was to throw the telegraphed pass that Hogg duly intercepted before galloping 80 metres for his second try in eight days.
And that was just about that – apart from a pick-up and score from 50 metres out by Lamont, and a consolation score for Alessandro Zanni. The latter came courtesy of a sublime offload from Sergio Parisse – a rare touch of Italian class on an afternoon that belonged to the resurgent Scots.
Scotland: S Hogg (Glasgow); S Maitland (Glasgow), S Lamont (Glasgow), M Scott (Edinburgh), T Visser (Edinburgh); R Jackson (Glasgow), G Laidlaw (Edinburgh); R Grant (Glasgow), R Ford (Edinburgh), E Murray (Worcester), R Gray (Sale), J Hamilton (Gloucester), R Harley (Glasgow), K Brown (Saracens, capt), J Beattie (Montpellier). Replacements: M Low (Glasgow) for Grant, 60; A Kellock (Glasgow) for Hamilton, 67; G Cross (Edinburgh) for Murray, 70; D Denton (Edinburgh) for Brown 70; M Evans (Castres) for Hogg, 73; H Pyrgos (Glasgow) for Laidlaw, 76.
Italy: A Masi (Wasps); G Venditti (Zebre), T Benvenuti (Treviso), G Canale (La Rochelle), L McLean (Treviso); L Orquera (Zebre), T Botes (Treviso); A Lo Cicero (Racing Metro), L Ghiraldini (Treviso), M Castrogiovanni (Leicester), Q Geldenhuys (Zebre), F Minto (Treviso), A Zanni (Treviso), S Favaro (Treviso), S Parisse (Stade Francais, capt). Replacements: K Burton (Treviso) for Orquera, 48; E Gori (Treviso) for Botes, 48; A De Marchi (Treviso) for Lo Cicero, 60; D Giazzon (Zebre) for Ghiraldini, 60; A Pavanello (Treviso) for Geldenhuys, 60; L Cittadini (Treviso) for Castrogiovanni, 64; P Derbyshire (Treviso) for Favaro, 68
Referee: J Peyper (South Africa)
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