To a growing list of New Zealand heroes can be added a second name. First there was Russell Crowe, he of Hollywood Gladiatorial heroics, yesterday it was another Kiwi, the kilted variety, Brendan Laney.
Crowe was in Rome this weekend and if he did what 25,000 Romans did he would have seen the Scotland fullback marking his third game with 24 points and easing the painful memories of two years ago when the Tartan terrors were subdued by a passionate Italian performance.
Yesterday that passion was missing from the home side. As bravely as they stuck at it they ran out of ideas and steam long before the end. Laney was forced to step in as a replacement kicker early in the match after Chris Paterson took a knock. He produced a performance above and beyond the call of duty as he finally kicked Scotland's Six Nations season into life.
Italy ultimately promised much, but failed to deliver. Scotland took their time but eventually realised that they too have some match-winners in their midst.
A plane-load of traditionally clad Scots fans had their kilt pins confiscated before their flight on Friday, the fastenings deemed dangerous by the authorities who were ever mindful of 11 September. However, there were times when Scotland found themselves deprived of some of their more lethal components.
Openside Andrew Mower was spotted by a touch judge doing something illegal and was sent to the sin bin for 10 minutes; then Paterson was floored after making a break and needed treatment.
That led to Laney being drafted in as kicker and his first attempt cancelled out Diego Dominguez's first kick. He repeated the feat in the 27th minute after the Italian had punished the Scots for another infringement.
The Italians threatened every time they went forward, the veteran Paolo Vaccari using his experience well, but the Scots were ever ready to counter-attack. Paterson looked sharp out on the left, Laney added his bulk to the line at judicious moments and it all helped to put pressure on the home side.
And the Italians creaked under the squeeze to concede the lead for the first time in the match when Laney made it three out of three in the 32nd minute. Italy then had a major let-off when Mauro Bergamasco took out Glenn Metcalfe with his shoulder in the tackle. With many expecting a red card, New Zealand referee Kelvin Deaker decided against a card of any colour.
Not long after that came a great opportunity for the Scots to slip ahead. James McLaren was unmarked out on the left but Gregor Townsend's pass clipped an Italian hand and found touch.
Shortly after, Scotland lost their lead, Dominguez maintaining his perfect record with his third penalty, while Laney's luck finally ran out as the first half drew to a close and he fell short with two ambitious, long kicks; those blips sandwiching Townsend's long-range drop-goal attempt.
There was a more organised look to Scotland after the break, they took a leaf out of the Italian book and concentrated on doing the simple things right. Not even a fourth penalty by Dominguez could divert them from their purpose. Their reward was more time spent in the home side's 22, but even with the temporary departure of Santiago Dellapé to the sin bin they were unable to breach the line.
Scotland's only source of points remained the boot of Laney, who popped over two more goals to restore Scotland's lead. But a chance to increase that lead went when the full-back's left foot went from under him with his seventh penalty attempt – that Dominguez has the divinity on his side was in no doubt, because although he too had lost his footing with his 45th minute shot at goal, the ball still sailed over.
Then came the moment the estimated 10,000 Scottish fans had waited for. The Italians were building up to make a rare excursion into their opponents' territory. They were not under any undue pressure as the ball swung out to their left, but then the replacement full-back, Luca Martin, was a little too casual as he telegraphed his intent.
His pass to the right wing, Roberto Pedrazzi, never reached the target. Townsend tore up and snatched the ball from under the astonished Italian's nose and then hared from the home side's 10 metre line to touch down under the posts. Laney added the conversion.
That rocked the Italians to the core and they lost their shape. When the tide of blue surged upfield again the Italians, crumbling like one of their after-dinner biscuits, back-pedalled frantically.
Centre Andy Henderson was the personification of cool as he shipped the ball out to Laney and the latest Scottish hero blasted around the outside, dummying once, twice, then sprinting for the line. Naturally, his authorship of the script had him adding to the misery for Italy with the conversion.
Italy: P Vaccari (Calvisano); R Pedrazzi (Viadana), Mirko Bergamasco (Padua), C Stoica (Castres), D Dallan (Treviso); D Dominguez (Stade Français), A Troncon (Montferrand); F Pucciariello (Gloucester), A Moscardi (Treviso, capt), G De Carli (Calvisano), S Dellapé (Viadana), C Checchinato (Treviso), M Bortolami (Padua), M Phillips (Viadana), Mauro Bergamasco (Treviso). Replacements: A Moreno (Worcester) for Pucciariello, 52; A Lo Cicero (Toulouse) for de Carli, 60; M Giacheri (Sale) for Dellapé, 64; A Persico (Viadana) for Phillips, 80; R Pez (Rotherham) for Dominguez, 80; L Martin (Northampton) for Vaccari, 68.
Scotland: B Laney (Edinburgh); G Metcalfe (Glasgow), J McLaren (Glasgow), A Henderson (Glasgow), C Paterson (Edinburgh); G Townsend (Castres), B Redpath (Sale, capt); T Smith (Northampton), G Bulloch (Glasgow), M Stewart (Northampton), S Murray (Saracens), S Grimes (Newcastle), J White (Glasgow), S Taylor (Edinburgh), A Mower (Newcastle). Replacements: G Graham (Newcastle) for Stewart, 61; M Leslie (Edinburgh) for Mower, 72.
Referee: K Deaker (New Zealand).Reuse content