Scotland stars Ally Hogg and Graeme Morrison admitted they had let Italy off the hook during a dramatic end to their RBS 6 Nations campaign in Rome.
After a poor start when they conceded a penalty try, Scotland trebled their try count for the tournament thanks to Hogg and Mike Blair’s touch-downs during a free-flowing 20-minute spell.
But they lost momentum at half-time and Italy captain Sergio Parisse turned the game on its head when he intercepted a Dan Parks pass well inside his own half.
The number eight broke forward and fed Gonzalo Canale to level the scores. And the Azzurri took the initiative before Andrea Marcato’s last-minute drop goal made it 23-20 and earned the hosts their first win of the tournament.
Hogg found no consolation in his try - and the fact Scotland avoided a second consecutive wooden spoon by a better points difference of three. He did feel Scotland had continued the improvement they had shown during the previous weekend’s victory over England at Murrayfield.
However, the 25-year-old forward admitted sloppy errors had kept the Italians in the Stadio Flaminio encounter.
“We played some good stuff,” the Edinburgh flanker said. “We attacked probably the best we had in the championship but they lived off our mistakes.
“The intercept try was like a 14-point swing because Smithy (Craig Smith) had made a great run up the middle and we tried to spread it wide and thought we were in. Unfortunately it didn’t end up that way.
“We felt we were in control, I thought we had a lot of territory and were pushing, we just couldn’t convert it into points and couldn’t get that one score more, that eight points ahead.
“I think that was the big thing, Italy were always in it and getting the intercept try just gave them a massive lift and they kicked on from that.
“We didn’t start well but to be 17-10 up at half-time was great. We thought we deserved that.
“But fair play to Italy, they stuck in there and they never gave up and managed to sneak it in the end.”
Glasgow centre Morrison was a key figure in the positive spell before the interval, driving forward with the ball in hand and showing invention with the boot.
The 25-year-old, who ended a three-year international exile after Scotland’s poor start to the championship, agreed that their overall play had been undermined by mistakes. “Having just come in last week I’ve not had to suffer like some of the boys have,” he said. “In general terms we have made progress from that first game. We won last week and had bonuses here.
“The result tells a different story but we have made some progress.
“The boys put in an unbelievable amount of effort, we played most of the rugby. “Unfortunately the errors kept them in it and when it comes to the end, anything can happen.”