26 - 6
(Half Time 16 - 3)
Sat 28th Feb 09, 15:00
Referee: Nigel Owens
Simon Danielli & Matteo Pratichetti
28 February 2009, 5:05 pm
Scotland outclass sorry Italy
Scotland recorded their first victory in this year's RBS 6 Nations but failed to lift much of the pressure on coach Frank Hadden after a performance which lacked composure and fluency for the majority of the game.
Simon Danielli scored one of the tries of the tournament so far in the first half and helped to set up Scott Gray for a decisive score midway through the second period as Scotland squeezed past a limited Italy outfit 26-6 at Murrayfield.
But for long periods the home side laboured horribly against the Azzurri, who have won just two of their last 13 matches – one of those last year in Rome against Hadden’s men.
The three wins enjoyed during the heady days of Hadden’s debut campaign in the Six Nations of 2006 seemed a distant memory, Scotland managing only fleeting moments of impressive rugby against Italy.
For the clash with Nick Mallett’s side, Euan Murray returned after a rib injury to anchor the scrum - while Alastair Kellock was handed a recall by Hadden to add some ballast to a Scottish pack rapidly running out of fit locks.
Italy coach Mallett made four changes to the side beaten 38-9 at home by Ireland - Andrea Marcato coming in for the suspended Andrea Masi at full-back and hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini, lock Marco Bortolami and centre Gonzalo Garcia returning after injury.
Scotland were forced into an early change when stand-off Phil Godman went off with a facial injury, to be replaced in a blood-bin substitution by Chris Paterson.
It was another piece of misfortune against Italy for the Edinburgh playmaker, who was at fault for the first of these opponents’ three tries in six minutes when the sides last met at Murrayfield two years ago.
Paterson – who scored all Scotland’s points in their last win over Italy at the 2007 World Cup - was immediately into the action, slotting a penalty seconds after he entered the fray in the sixth minute to put his country 3-0 ahead.
Italy, who replaced Garcia with Andrea Bacchetti as Scotland carried out their reshuffle, conceded another penalty six minutes later - and Paterson made no mistake to double his side’s lead before making way for the Godman.
The return of their playmaker did nothing to improve Scotland’s play as they continued to labour, a woeful interception pass thrown by Hugo Southwell to Italy flanker Alessandro Zanni summing up their dismal initial efforts.
Unlike in 2007, Scotland managed to scramble back to stop the try. But Italy did get on the board from the subsequent recycled ball when number eight Sergio Parisse emulated great All Black back-rower Zinzan Brooke by landing a drop goal in the 22nd minute.
Godman failed with a simple penalty attempt but did move his side 9-3 ahead with a straightforward kick just after the half-hour.
Scotland were still by no means playing fluent rugby but were at least enjoying a greater amount of possession and territory - and they turned that improved field position into a try of rare ingenuity and class four minutes from the break.
Mike Blair and John Barclay fed Graeme Morrison in midfield, and the Glasgow centre popped the ball inside for Danielli to hit the line at pace.
The Ulster winger scorched past Matteo Pratichetti and sauntered round under the posts for one of the tries of the tournament – and Danielli’s first for his country since 2004.
Godman converted to stretch his side’s lead to 16-3 - and with Marcato missing a long-range penalty attempt just before the break, Scotland went to half-time with a significant advantage which probably flattered them.
Less than 10 minutes had elapsed in the second period when both sides coincidentally decided to change their full-backs, Paterson coming on permanently for Hugo Southwell and Marcato replaced by Giulio Rubini.
Hadden also brought on Dougie Hall at hooker in place of Ross Ford and Chris Cusiter for captain Mike Blair.
Italy were the next to score, stand-off Luke McLean slotting a simple penalty in the 55th minute to bring his side to within a converted try and a penalty of the hosts.
However, Hadden’s latest replacement did have the desired impact when Gray touched down in the 63rd minute after more good work from Danielli.
The former Bath and Borders star cut in from the left and fed fellow winger Thom Evans, who showed a welcome piece of composure to find Gray when he was stopped short of the line to allow the Zimbabwe-born flanker to dive over for his first try for Scotland.
Paterson converted to put Scotland out of sight at 23-6 and ask further questions of Italy’s stamina in Test matches.
Scotland made most of the running in the latter stages, and only a fumble on the line denied Cusiter a try - after a wonderful burst from replacement prop Alasdair Dickinson - in the last notable piece of action.