Six Nations Game 7 - Scotland vs Italy (17-37)
Twenty seconds and the Italians were off! Godman's chip was intercepted by Mauro Bergamasco who slid in under the posts and Scanavacca converted. All of a sudden, the Scots were stunned and on the back foot. As if that wasn't bad enough, Cusiter's pass was intercepted by Scanavacca and he put it under the posts too! The Azzuri were 14 points up after only five minutes. Then it got worse! Another wayward pass and another intercept - clinically finished off by Kaine Robertson [right]. The boot added the extras and then it was 0-21 to Italy.
Not the sort of start that Lock Scott Murray would want for his record-equalling 82nd cap, to tie with Gregor Townsend. And not the sort of start the Murrayfield crowd were expecting - boos rang around.
A chink of light for the Scots on 12 minutes - Rob Dewey managing to get over the line and Paterson's boot gaining the extra two points. Then they were only two tries down.
Italy were pushing the Scottish defence again, and were five yards out, when Simon Taylor appeared to foul Roland de Marigny and Taylor was off to the bin for ten. Despite the disparity, Scotland made a concerted effort at attacking the Azzurri's line. But the blues kept pushing them backwards, no matter what they did.
Italy got themselves offside and Scotland decided to kick for the corner. Having won the lineout, Dougie Hall was pushed into touch just short of the line. Another lineout ended with Scottish hands losing the ball forward, so it was an Italy scrum with only seven Scots to push back. The scrum collapsed and Italy had a penalty. They kicked the points to make it 7-24.
They pushed the ball into the Scottish half, then won their lineout and mauled a good few yards up the pitch. Ultimately coming to nothing. The Scots begin to settle down and survive Taylor's ten in the bin without condeding any more points.
Just after the half hour, Scotland appeared to be making more moves and progress up the pitch. But a knock forward gave Italy a scrum. The Scottish lineout seemed to be one of the few parts of the game which worked ok, but they didn't get very far with the subsequent drives. They just couldn't seem to make any headway, despite attacking the Azzurri's line. For the final play of the half, Paterson decides to kick a penalty (at long last) rather than trying for more points via the corner. So they went in 10-24.
Scotland kicked off the second half to the strains of Loch Lomond from the crowd. Hadden must have had stern words in the changing room at half time.
A botched Scottish lineout gave Italy some possession, but they lost it forward. The ball changed hands several times from the scrum, eventually, Scotland took a quick penalty and ran the ball - but Phil Godman's pass to Hugo Southwell was slightly forward.
Euan Murray [left] was taken off for a blood injury for a few minutes, but came back on fairly quickly. He kept having the nose dabbed in subsequent breaks.
Frank Hadden made wholesale changes from the bench with thirty minutes to go, but it was the Azzurri who still seemed to be making the headway. Then Italy lost the ball, Ally Hogg kicked half way down the pitch and Sean Lamont [right] won the chase, but it was pushed into touch. Several phases later and Lamont got them to within five meters of the line. Italy infringed, and Paterson chose to go for the corner instead of the three points.
Their attack always seemed to fall back at the last minute. The Scottish backs had another opportunity from lineouts, but squandered it. They Scots did manage to steal an Italian lineout in their half, but further phases and Nathan Hines knocked on.
Italian coach Pierre Berbizier brought on his front row replacements with just over twenty minutes to go, including Saracen Fabio Ongaro [left].
A minute later, Cusiter offloaded from the back of a scrum and Chris Paterson saw a gap. He was off. And converted his own score. Scotland had a lifeline and the score was a more respectable 17-24. The restart wasn't taken by anyone, and then Italy won a lineout close to the Scottish line. The Scots were forced to defend and Troncon lost it forward at the back of a ruck, 3m off the line.
The subsequent scrum was a mess for Scotland, and it was Italy's feed 3m out again. Scotland went to ground at the next scrum and Scanavacca kicked the penalty to go 17-27. With barely fifteen minutes to go, Scotland needed to do something special, and they promptly messed up the restart catch and it went into touch.
Italy's lineout deep in Scotland's territory was won, and then Troncon steered his forwards for a trundling maul. Scotland brought it down, winning another penalty, but it was reversed when an Italian was seen using the boot on the ground. No points gained though, and soon after, the Scots gave away another penalty at a ruck. This time, it was kickable and Scanavacca duely punted it over for 17-30.
After the restart, the Italian forwards went on a decent drive, Roberston's kick ahead just went into touch, but the Scottish lineout was won messily again. A few phases later, and Italy were attacking the Scots' tryline again. Wave after wave, and it was up to the video ref to agree that Alessandro Troncon [right] had scored. Duely converted by Scanavacca, the hearts of the Scottish fans were heavy and the Italians were singing in the stands. He was well-deserved Man of the Match too.
For the last three minutes, Scotland tried the damnedest to break the Italian defence, and got up to the 5m line. They won a penalty close in, and Scotland battered the defence again - 1m short of the line. Blue shirts were all over them. Eventually, they were bundled into touch, Italy won their lineout and the countdown was on. Quite why Italy replaced Scanavacca with 4 seconds left on the clock is anybody's guess. Perhaps he was the only one left on the bench! Scotland tried to get a consolation score in the dying moments, but it was knocked forward and the Italians went wild at the final 17-37 score.
So, a momentous first away victory for the Azzurri, and well deserved it was too. I'm really pleased for them, they seem to have been the tournament's whipping boys for so long, but it's great to see them finally getting some reward for their hard work and commitment. Must be a hard day to be a Scotland supporter, though.
Or read my ten word review.