"The match of death," Gonzalo Canale, Italy's outside centre, called it. And by the final whistle in Saint-Etienne it was the World Cup dream of the Azzurri that had perished. Scotland live to fight another day, thanks to the lethal weapon of Chris Paterson's right boot.
Six times the Borderer took aim at the posts and six times he hit the target with penalty attempts. Italy were kicked to "death" in the rain and Scotland kick on to the quarter-finals, and a date at the Stade de France a week tonight – more than likely with Argentina and almost certainly as the lone fliers of the Celtic flag.
Whether Frank Hadden's men have the wherewithal to make it to the semi-finals and match Ian McGeechan's side of 1991 remains to be seen. They failed to cross the Italian line last night but in Paterson, late of Edinburgh and now of Gloucester, they have the world's supreme place-kicker. His tally last night maintained a 100 per cent record for the tournament. He has kicked 15 out of 15 shots at goal.
For Scotland, of course, the most pressing priority at kick-off time – 9pm locally – was to avoid the kind of calamitous start that lost them the Six Nations contest between the countries at Murrayfield in February almost before it had begun. On that occasion, six minutes of loose play gift-wrapped the Italians three tries and 21 points. Last night it was different story – initially, at any rate.
Scotland remained on the front foot from their own kick-off, winning the put-in at a scrum 15 metres out on the left and drawing the Italians offside, thus providing Paterson with his first pot at the posts. The left wing's right boot hit the target and it did so again two minutes later, this time from the right wing after David Bortolussi, the Italian full-back, was penalised for not releasing.
That made it 6-0 after four minutes and it might have been better for the Scots had they taken advantage when the scrum-half Alessandro Troncon made a hash of an attempted clearance close to the left corner. As it was, the only gain for Scotland was a yellow card for Mauro Bergamasco, the Stade Français flanker having held back an opposition player.
Not that Italy suffered for being at a numerical disadvantage. With 13 minutes on the clock, Rory Lamont failed to gather a Ramiro Pez garryowen in the shadow of his own posts and Troncon pounced from close range. Bortolussi added the extras and followed up with a penalty four minutes later, making it 10-6 in Italy's favour.
Scotland were suddenly a little dazed and confused. Rory Lamont certainly was, having been tipped in mid-air by Andrea Masi while volleying a loose ball into touch. After treatment, the Sale full-back played on for four minutes but then had to make way for Hugo Southwell.
To their credit, the Scots did not just regain their composure before the interval. They also regained the lead, at 12-10. For that they had Paterson to thank, the former captain landing a couple of penalties from 40 metres, the first after a neck-high tackle on Dan Parks by Troncon, the second for handling in the ruck.
Fortunately for Scotland, Bortolussi was not quite so proficient, firing a penalty off target before half-time and falling short with another two minutes into the second half. Thus, when Paterson made it five out of five and six out of six, the Scots had a handy 18-10 cushion. That, however, was before Nathan Hines was sent to the cooler for a high tackle on Masi, allowing Bortolussi to kick a penalty that pegged the gap back to five points.
Just after the hour, the Italian was on the mark from 40 metres. That made for a nervy finale and with three minutes left Bortolussi had a long-range penalty chance on the right. To Caledonian sighs of relief, his effort drifted narrowly wide.
Scotland: R Lamont (Sale); S Lamont (Northampton), S Webster (Edinburgh), R Dewey (Ulster), C Paterson (Gloucester); D Parks (Glasgow), M Blair; G Kerr (both
Edinburgh), R Ford (Glasgow), E Murray (Northampton), N Hines (Perpignan), J Hamilton (Leicester), J White (Sale, capt), A Hogg (Edinburgh), S Taylor (Stade Français). Replacements: H Southwell (Edinburgh) for R Lamont, 25; A Henderson (Glasgow) for Dewey, 60; C Smith (Edinburgh) for Kerr, 65; K Brown (Glasgow) for Hogg, 70; S MacLeod (Llanelli Scarlets) for Hamilton, 72; C Cusiter (Perpignan) for Blair, 72.
Italy: D Bortolussi (Auch); K Robertson (Viadana), G Canale (Clermont), Mirco Bergamasco (Stade Français), A Masi (Biarritz); R Pez (Bayonne), A Troncon (Clermont, capt); S Perugini (Toulouse), C Festuccia (Parma), M Castrogiovanni (Leicester), S Dellape (Biarritz), C Del Fava (Ulster), J Sole (Viadana), Mauro Bergamasco (Stade Français), S Parisse (Stade Français). Replacements: A Lo Cicero (L'Aquila) for Perugini, 47; F Ongaro (Saracens) for Festuccia, 54; Perugini for Castrogiovanni, 74.
Referee: J Kaplan (South Africa).Reuse content