Paterson the saviour of nervy Scots

Scotland 18 - Italy 10
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The Independent Online

Sighs of relief all round in Auld Reekie, unless you happened to be Italian. The faultless goal-kicking of Chris Paterson, unmatched by anything offered by the Azzurri, ended Scotland's increasingly anxious wait for a Six Nations victory and dissipated not a moment too soon the pressure building on their Australian coach, Matt Williams.

Sighs of relief all round in Auld Reekie, unless you happened to be Italian. The faultless goal-kicking of Chris Paterson, unmatched by anything offered by the Azzurri, ended Scotland's increasingly anxious wait for a Six Nations victory and dissipated not a moment too soon the pressure building on their Australian coach, Matt Williams.

Italy's defeat leaves them as clear favourites for the wooden spoon, a fate they avoided in the last two seasons by beating Wales in 2003 and Scotland in 2004. "There's no answer other than to get up again and work hard," said John Kirwan, the Italy coach.

Well, possibly one other answer: find someone as deadly accurate as Paterson who, with six successful penalties out of six, kicked the Italians where it hurts. Short of wheeling the retired Diego Dominguez on to the field in a bath chair, there is no immediate chance of that.

Roland de Marigny was hit-and-miss in Italy's 38-8 defeat by Wales a fortnight ago, and the South African-born full-back let his adopted country down again with two missed penalties in the first half here. Luciano Orquera took over, to no better effect, the fly-half failing once from the tee and once with an attempted drop.

Italy might have been 15-6 ahead after the interval; instead they trailed 6-3, which became 18-3 as Paterson chipped away from every distance up to and almost including halfway. At the end, Andrea Masi's try was converted by De Marigny. But apart from showing the dangers of wholesale substitutions, it changed little.

Undeniably these are bleak days for Scotland. Williams achieved his first win in the Championship at the eighth attempt - the Scots' last Six Nations victory was here in March 2003 - but it was mostly dire stuff. "You can only answer criticism as a coach by the actions of your players," said Williams. Those actions spoke of the merest measure of confidence returning, albeit the size of the smallest shots in the pubs off Princes Street.

The Scots took an early lead when Marco Bortolami put a hand in a ruck, then De Marigny failed to punish Simon Webster for not releasing, but equalised after 20 minutes when Scotland went offside. The two teams were so keen to go for goal that both Alessandro Troncon and Dan Parks were chided by the referee for deliberately throwing the ball forward rather than playing the advantage. But De Marigny missed again after 26 minutes, while Paterson coolly scored from 45 metres soon after.

A welter of knock-ons and regular incursions by the respective sponge men - bruised egos to be treated, perhaps - mitigated against any sort of flow.

Scotland's scrum was reassuringly solid throughout, but they got through the first quarter without once visiting the Azzurri 22. Not that Italy were threatening in possession: Orquera struck a ponderous tempo that his centres were unable to bring to a crescendo.

As a source of entertainment, the referee-spectator speaker link was a boon. Early in the second half, Jon Petrie was penalised for dabbling at an Italian ruck, and Stuart Dickinson, the Australian referee, told Bortolami, Italy's captain. "If there's not a good clean-out for either side, then it gets stagnant." Too true, Stu. Orquera missed the kick from the 10-metre line, preserving the Scots' slender lead.

Masi tripped Paterson - he dusted himself down to make it 9-3. A rare backs' move of quality earned a position for Scotland's former captain to strike again. After 64 minutes, the Scots' claims for a try foundered on touch judge Alan Lewis calling not one but two passes forward in the move that ended with Sean Lamont going over at the left corner. Williams, who had to apologise for criticising Irish touch judge Simon McDowell in Paris three weeks ago, said: "It was the correct call."

Paterson's longest effort heralded the final 10 minutes, and Italy suffered again as Andrea lo Cicero went too low at a scrum. Simon Taylor returned to Scotland's back row after 11 months out with a knee injury, and his stamina was impressive. Williams sent on a flurry of replacements and one of them, Gordon Ross, was charged down by David dal Maso behind a ruck in the Scotland 22, Masi scoring. With Orquera off the field De Marigny converted but he would have swapped it for a much earlier penalty.

Williams, who lost 12 of his 14 previous Tests, said beforehand that he had "never walked away from anything in my life, except possibly painting the kitchen". On a good Six Nations day to be a Williams, he papered over Scotland's cracks.

Scotland: C Paterson (Edinburgh); S Webster (Edinburgh), A Craig (Glasgow), H Southwell (Edinburgh), S Lamont (Glasgow); D Parks (Glasgow), C Cusiter (Borders); T Smith (Northampton), G Bulloch (Glasgow, capt), G Kerr (Leeds), S Grimes (Newcastle), S Murray (Edinburgh), S Taylor (Edinburgh), A Hogg (Edinburgh), J Petrie (Glasgow). Replacements: B Hinshelwood (Worcester) for Southwell, 70; G Ross (Leeds) for Parks, 76; M Blair (Edinburgh) for Cusiter, 76; R Russell (London Irish) for Bulloch, 76; B Douglas (Borders) for Kerr, 72; N Hines (Edinburgh) for Murray, 74; J Dunbar (Leeds) for Taylor, 74.

Italy: R de Marigny (Parma); Mirco Bergamasco (Stade Français), A Masi (Viadana), C Stoica (Montpellier), L Nitoglia (Calvisano); L Orquera (Padova), A Troncon (Treviso); A lo Cicero (L'Aquila), F Ongaro (Treviso), M Castrogiovanni (Calvisano), S Dellapè (Agen), M Bortolami (Narbonne, capt), A Persico (Agen), S Parisse (Treviso), D dal Maso (Treviso). Replacements: K Robertson (Viadana) for Bergamasco, 72; R Pedrazzi (Viadana) for Stoica, 57; P Griffen (Calvisano) for Orquera, 67; S Perugini (Calvisano) for Castrogiovanni, 63; C A del Fava (Parma) for Dellapè, 63.

Referee: S Dickinson (Australia).

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