Scotland have beaten Italy 36-20, ending their 6 Nations losing run in relative style.
Tries from John Barclay, John Hardie and Tommy Seymour gave Scotland the victory and banished any possibility of a second successive wooden spoon.
This team has waited a long time to celebrate
All the talk in the leadup to the game was focussed on Scotland and their seeming lack of killer instinct, despite all their attacking endeavour. Clive Woodward even went as far as to call the team ‘Second Division’.
So it didn’t help alleviate the mounting pressure when bath No.8 David Denton was ruled out with a groin strain sustained at training on Friday. Ryan Wilson was promoted from the bench and Josh Strauss was flown in from Glasgow, despite having played a prominent part in their victory over the Dragons just two days before.
By the beard of Strauss!
The game kicked off in fine Italian conditions but was marred early on by cagey errors from both sides. It wasn’t until scrum time that Scotland made an impression, holding their own and even pushing the much vaunted Italian pack backwards.
Italy drew first blood scoring a penalty through Kelly Haimona in the 8th minute, but it didn’t take long for Scotland to strike back with Stuart Hogg showing his trademark acceleration down the left wing before offloading to John Barclay who went over in the corner. The Scarlets comeback man hit a perfect line at pace and showed Vern Cotter (not to mention Scott Johnson) what they’d been missing.
After years in the wilderness (Wales) it’s good to have Barclay back
This seemed to ease the pressure and you could see the confidence flowing with the kind of attacking endeavour every Scotland fan’s been yearning for. Just minutes later Finn Russell dummied and sliced through the flailing Italian defence, before some neat handling put John Hardie over in the same corner. It was duly converted by Laidlaw who went on to score a penalty to give Scotland a commanding 17-3 lead after 25 minutes.
Hardie is rapidly becoming one of Scotland’s most valuable players
However, hopes of an Italian rout were quickly extinguished when some lovely handling put Leonardo Ghiraldini over for a try. It remains a mystery why they endure with a forward based game plan when you see skills like that.
So Scotland went in at half time leading 17-10. You couldn’t help feeling they should have been further ahead, especially when you consider Scotland score 80% of their points in the first half.
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Following the break Italy came out looking reinvigorated and forced Scotland to defend for long periods. Despite their battering attacks, the Scottish defence held firm under intense pressure, before Nel relieved it winning another penalty.
Laidlaw and Haimona traded penalties and Scotland looked to be on course to victory with 20 minutes to go. That was until Finn Russell was rather harshly sent to the bin and Marco Fuser durely scored to bring the deficit to just 6 points.
Winning under pressure is what separates a good team from bad. The next 11 minutes will define this team for better or worse. #ITAvSCO
— Scotland Rugby News (@ScotRugbyNews) February 27, 2016
Russell was barely back on before WP Nel also got sin binned for what was judged a deliberate knock on. However, just a couple of minutes later Stuart Hogg once again gave the try scoring pass, this time Tommy Seymour was the recipient.
Hogg was at his creative best
Laidlaw converted and Scotland saw out the last couple of minutes to win by 36 to 20 and record a much needed victory.
What did you think? Will this win be the start of a new dawn? Let us know in the comments below.
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Credit: 6 Nations Rugby