Wooden spoon beckons for Scotland as Kirwan gains in status

Italy 20 Scotland 14
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The Independent Online

A funny thing happened on the way out of the Flaminio - sounds of cheering from a local bar, which on closer inspection proved to be emanating from a crowd of kilt-wearing weekenders from Caledonian country. Had not their heroes just bent the knee, in somewhat dispiriting fashion, to the joyous Italians? The explanation was that Ireland's Twickenham victory was being relayed live on television. As long as England were losing, all was right with the world.

Only a curmudgeon would have chosen the moment to point out that Scotland had lost to England by 22 points at Murrayfield a fortnight earlier, and their coach, Matt Williams, and captain, Chris Paterson, were now standing small with a joint-record of played three, lost three, with a first wooden spoon since 1985 beckoning.

In any case, the Scots' deficiencies have long been obvious - Williams, himself, laid them out with painful crispness. "I'm fully aware we could go a year without winning a game, but I am simply approaching the next 18 months one game at a time. We'll give it our best against France [on Sunday week] and see how these young boys go."

Williams's opposite number, John Kirwan, who applied for the recent vacancy at Northampton, has been in charge of the Azzurri for two years, after one as assistant to Brad Johnstone, and may feel he has seen and done enough, whatever improvement this success made to his prospects. He admitted he had met with the Italian Federation president, Giancarlo Dondi, on Saturday morning, but revealed no details. "I have the opportunity to work hard," said Kirwan, cryptically, "and that's all I want at the moment."

There was a certain irony, given Scotland's dabbling with the "kilted Kiwis" in recent years, that Italy were driven forward by the box-kicks of Paul Griffen - late of Canterbury - the insistent tackling of Aaron Persico - another from New Zealand - and the raking touch-finders of a son of South Africa, Roland de Marigny.

A satisfying victory then - and Italy's third in 23 matches since joining the Championship in 2000 - and a reward for simple planning and a ferocious contest for possession. Andrea de Rossi and his forwards flew into the breakdown like penniless tramps fighting over a winning euro lottery ticket.

At half-time it was nine points each, after three penalties by De Marigny and the same contribution from Chris Paterson. Scotland's kicking out of hand was poor, and the tactic was further negated by their minimal success at disrupting Italy's line-out.

Perversely, the opening try stemmed from a Scottish throw, two minutes into the second half. Grimes, off balance, palmed to no one in particular, Gordon Bulloch was shoved out of the way by his opposite number Fabio Ongaro and though the Italian hooker juggled the ball rather than ground it cleanly, the score was given without recourse to the television match official. De Marigny's conversion hit the post, but he popped over penalties in the 69th and 78th minutes to make it 20-9.

Williams's impact substitutions were unsuccessful. Nathan Hines slapped a couple of opponents impetuously and conceded 10 metres to assist De Marigny's fifth penalty. Derrick Lee, who made the pass for Simon Webster's last ditch try, arrived too late. Williams made a rather lame excuse about not being able see the game clock clearly - note to SRU: invest in a stopwatch - and Scotland's future is equally uncertain.

Italy 20
Try: Ongaro
Pens: De Marigny 5

Scotland 14
Try: Webster
Pens: Paterson 3

Half-time: 9-9 Att: 21,340

ITALY: G Canale (Treviso); N Mazzucato (Calvisano), C Stoica (Montpellier), M Dallan (Treviso), D Dallan (Treviso); R de Marigny (Overmach Parma), P Griffen (Calvisano); A Lo Cicero (Lazio), F Ongaro (Treviso), M Castrogiovanni (Calvisano), S Dellape (Treviso), M Bortolami (Petrarca Padova), A de Rossi (Calvisano, capt), S Parisse (Treviso), A Persico (Leeds Tykes). Replacements: R Wakarua (Leonessa Brescia) for M Dallan, 47; S Orlando (Treviso) for Parisse, 61; C Festuccia (GrAN Parma) for Ongaro, 74; M Bergamasco (Stade Français) for Canale, 74

SCOTLAND: B Hinshelwood (Worcester); S Danielli (Bath), T Philip (Edinburgh), B Laney (Edinburgh), S Webster (Edinburgh); C Paterson (Edinburgh, capt), C Cusiter (Borders); A Jacobsen (Edinburgh), G Bulloch (Glasgow), B Douglas (Borders), S Murray (Edinburgh), S Grimes (Newcastle Falcons), J White (Sale Sharks), S Taylor (Edinburgh), A Hogg (Edinburgh). Replacements: M Blair (Edinburgh) for Cusiter, h-t; G Kerr (Leeds Tykes) for Jacobsen, h-t; Jacobsen for Douglas, 65; N Hines (Edinburgh) for Grimes, 65; D Lee (Edinburgh) for Danielli, 74; J Petrie (Glasgow) for J White, 78; A Henderson (Glasgow) for Laney, 78

Referee: N Whitehouse (Wales)