Disaster was easily averted by Scotland as they drew Italy’s Guinness Six Nations to a close by dishing out their heaviest defeat in a series of heavy defeats.
Early Scottish indiscipline saw Italy take the lead through Luca Bigi when he peeled off a maul and dove under Darcy Graham – no mean feat in itself – to finish superbly, and Paolo Garbisi’s left-footed conversion was equally as impressive.
Scotland got on the scoreboard soon afterwards through similar means, the line-out woes of last week put to bed when Dave Cherry regained possession of his throw to score his first try on his first start.
Hogg missed the conversion to leave Scotland still trailing, but they took the lead within seconds, a scintillating charge down the middle of the field by Huw Jones ending with Duhan van der Merwe crossing the line.
Garbisi reduced the deficit with a penalty, however on Scotland’s next possession Federico Mori was sent to the sin-bin for a shoulder charge on Sam Johnson, so Hogg went to the line. Fellow Terie Darcy Graham finished off after Sean Maitland had broken the line.
Graham was smashed in the tackle by Monty Ioane as Scotland again threatened, but when Scotland got the ball back near their own 22 a devastating break down the left and some deft hands saw Huw Jones take Hogg’s inside pop-pass and gallop home unchallenged.
Bonus point secured within half an hour, it now seemed like a matter of running up the points difference for Scotland, however Italy managed to pinch a line-out and then force an error to thwart Scotland.
The Azzurri then even went up the pitch and nearly scored right on half-time, a tremendous penalty to touch by Garbisi giving Italy a line-out 10m from the Scotland line, but a maul sacked and
knock-on forced, brought an end to a largely successful first half for the hosts.
Half-time: Scotland 24 – 10 Italy
For the second week in a row, Garbisi booted his kick-off straight into touch, and having won the penalty at the resulting scrum, Scotland were soon deep in Italian territory and Dave Cherry was scoring from the back of a maul again.
Cherry was denied the chance to join the Hat-Tricking Hookers Club when the entire front-row was changed with around 50mins on the clock, but by minute 53, Italy were temporarily down to 14-men again and Scott Steele joined Cherry as a first time try-scorer when he snuck over from close range.
Just as Sebastian Negri was due to come back on, Monty Ioane was sent to the sin-bin for a dangerous tip tackle on Hogg, and Michele Lomaro can count himself lucky not to have joined him after shouldering Jamie Ritchie at a breakdown.
Duhan van der Merwe nearly scored off a between-the-legs pass from Hogg only to knock on as he went for the line, but Scotland’s scrum had started to show real dominance, and they won the penalty only 5m out.
The hapless Italians couldn’t prevent Scotland from becoming the fifth and final team to stick
40-points on them this championship, Sam Johnson showing impressive strength to throw Luca Bigi off and stretch over.
The half century of points was achieved in rather cruel circumstances, a decent Italian attack brought to an abrupt end with a spill in the Scotland 22 which was snaffled by Price.
The replacement scrum-half raced into the Italian half and played a beautiful, Mata-esque offload to van der Merwe for his second score of the match.
Italy took a penalty to the corner in the hope of getting a consolation, but debutant Alex Craig got on the end of Haining’s tip and Ali Price booted the ball out to bring a sorry end to Italy’s 2021 Six Nations and send Scotland to Paris in confident mood.
SRBlog Player of the Match: Duhan and Dave may have been at the double, but it was a mighty fine return to the starting XV for Huw Jones who carved through the Italian defence with consummate ease.
Referee: Pascal Gauzerre (FFR)