Guinness Six Nations
Italian job done as Scotland end tries and points drought
Hearty display: Stuart Hogg after scoring
Italy 0 (0) Scotland 17 (5)
Stadio Olimpico, Rome
Scotland finally secured their first Six Nations points in a frustrating tussle between two teams short on players able to control a game.
The visitors may have faced few dangers from their hosts, but they were restricted to a narrow lead until Adam Hastings scored the easiest of Scotland’s three tries two minutes from time.
Italy last won a match in this tournament against Scotland on 28 February 2015 and would have fancied their chances, particularly with Alessandro Zanni returning to the starting line-up for his 119th cap.
But they offered little here to suggest they would end a 25-game losing run, even against a Scotland team prone to errors and failing to take a number of chances that prevented them building a bigger margin. It was Scotland’s first Six Nations win in six games.
Captain Stuart Hogg scored Scotland’s first try of the tournament on 22 minutes after breaking from his own half and surging through the Italian defence to finish in the corner. But opportunities to extend Scotland’s lead were squandered when Adam Hastings could not convert after missing an earlier penalty.
Hogg now has 20 tries for Scotland – only Ian Smith, Tony Stanger and Chris Paterson have scored more – but Scotland were to be denied a further five points when Ali Price’s try was chalked off because Hamish Watson was judged to have delivered a forward pass to Sam Johnson.
Scotland avoided paying for their kicking failures when Tommaso Allan’s penalty struck a post just before the interval. However, another chance to extend their lead was lost when Ali Price knocked on in the tackle just metres short of the line.
If the visitors were regretting their scoring opportunities it was only the second time Italy have failed to score a first-half point in a home Six Nations match.
Scotland’s frustration continued two minutes into the second half when Ritchie was unable to take a catch, again just short of the line after some good work by Watson.
But finally they were to add a second try when Harris powered through after a spell of strong pushing by the Scottish forwards. The Gloucester centre, who was preferred in the staring line-up to Huw Jones, scored his only other Six Nations try to date in the win against Italy last year.
Hastings missed his third kick when the ball rebounded from a post and then delivered a stray pass when he looked well-placed to run through and score a third try. This allowed Matteo Minozzi to tear into Scotland’s 22 until being denied short of the posts.
“Maybe we didn’t play as fluently, partly because of the way Italy were playing, but also maybe because we knew how important a game and result was for us to now kick on in the championship,” said head coach Gregor Townsend.
“I’d like to think we’d go into our last two games with any pressure that might have been on our shoulders lifted.
“The performance wasn’t perfect by any means, but the defence was almost perfect when you have a zero against you.
“When you take the best bits of attack from this game and the Ireland game and put that together we can be a real threat for France, and Wales the following week.”
The French head to Murrayfield with hopes of a rare Grand Slam very much alive after defeating Wales in Cardiff.
The 27-23 win was only the second for France in ten attempts against the Welsh, who suffered their first Six Nations loss at home for three years.
Fly-half Romain Ntamack’s 17-point haul was the foundation of the victory, with full-back Anthony Bouthier and second-row Paul Willemse also touching down. Dan Biggar scored 18 points for the hosts, with Dillon Lewis also crossing the line.
Scotland: Tries – Hogg (1) Harris (1) Hastings (1); Conversions – Hastings (1)
Italy: Hayward, Bellini, Morisi, Canna, Minozzi, Allan, Braley, Steyn, Negri, Polledri, Cannone, Zanni, Zilocchi, Bigi, Lovotti.
Replacements: Zani, Fischetti, Riccioni, Lazzaroni, Budd, Licata, Palazzani, Bisegni.
Scotland: Hogg; Maitland, Harris, Johnson, Kinghorn; Hastings, Price; Sutherland, McInally, Fagerson, Cummings, Toolis, Ritchie, Watson, Bradbury.
Replacements: Brown, Dell, Nel, Gilchrist, M Fagerson, Horne, Hutchinson, McGuigan.
UPDATE 23 Feb: England ended Ireland‘s Grand Slam hopes to reignite their hopes of landing the Six Nations title with a 24-12 victory over Ireland at Twickenham.
First-half tries from George Ford and Elliot Daly after Irish defensive errors plus two conversions and a penalty from Owen Farrell gave England a commanding 17-0 lead.
Ireland struck back with a try from Robbie Henshaw but with Johnny Sexton uncharacteristically wayward off the tee, they never seriously threatened a comeback.
Luke Cowan-Dickie drove over for England’s third midway through the second half, with replacement Andrew Porter’s late try no sort of consolation for Ireland.