Italy missed a glorious chance to end a three-year wait for a Six Nations win as Greig Laidlaw’s late penalty secured Scotland a hard-fought 29-27 triumph in Rome.
Tommaso Allan – who had represented Scotland at junior level – scored 22 points, including two tries, as the Azzurri looked set to end a 16-match losing run in the tournament.
However, having led 24-12 early in the second half at the Stadio Olimpico, the hosts faded badly down the stretch to suffer yet more disappointment.
Scotland capitalised on Italy’s tiredness, tries from Sean Maitland and Stuart Hogg, both converted by Laidlaw, putting them 26-24 ahead as the game moved towards a climax.
Allan slotted over a penalty to briefly put Italy back ahead, only for Laidlaw to respond with a successful kick of his own in the 79th minute that finally settled a see-saw contest in Scotland’s favour.
— NatWest 6 Nations (@SixNationsRugby) March 17, 2018
The win means Gregor Townsend’s squad finish the campaign with three victories and two defeats, as they did in 2017.
After Allan kicked Italy ahead with a seventh-minute penalty, hooker Fraser Brown had the simple task of picking up Hamish Watson’s long pass and falling over the line for Scotland’s opening try.
However, Italy responded to the setback by scoring 14 points in the space of seven minutes.
Allan beautifully stepped off his right foot to reach the line himself before setting up Matteo Minozzi with a clever grubber kick that the full-back gleefully gathered under pressure.
Scotland’s riposte was prompt and powerful. Benefiting from a rolling maul, captain John Barclay plunged over for a try that Laidlaw successfully converted, making it 17-12 at the break.
Despite seeing a try from Sebastian Negri ruled out for a knock-on, Italy extended their advantage when Jake Polledri’s powerful run set up a second score for Allan, who also added the extras to make it a 12-point cushion.
Yet the clock, as well as a back-line reshuffle, worked against Italy, as they succumbed in the closing stages to suffer a fourth Six Nations whitewash in the last five years.
Switched to fly-half after Finn Russell was forced off through injury, Laidlaw provided the pass for Maitland to glide over before Hogg left Negri grasping at thin air to get the bonus-point try.
Allan’s boot briefly gave the home fans renewed hope, only for Laidlaw to hold his nerve from a tight angle, his successful kick completing the comeback and condemning Italy captain Sergio Parisse to a 100th Test defeat.
And I need a defibrillator.
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) March 17, 2018
Key Opta Stats:
– This was just the third win for Scotland in their last 20 Six Nations games away from home, all three of those victories coming in Rome.
– Italy have now lost their last 17 games in the Championship, the joint longest such run in Five/Six Nations history, level with France who lost 17 from 1911 to 1920.
– Parisse won his 65th cap, drawing level with Brian O’Driscoll as the most capped player in Five/Six Nations history. However, he also became the first player in history to lose 100 Test matches.
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