Report: Italy 31-29 Scotland

Report: Italy 31-29 Scotland

Italy posted their first win against Scotland in nine years and lifted the Cuttitta Cup for the first time after overcoming a 12 point first-half deficit in some style before a capacity 72,000 crowd in the Olympic Stadium in Rome this afternoon.

Scotland took the try count by four to three – and had another try ruled out for an off the ball obstruction called by the TMO – but having started the game so strongly, allowed Italy to fightback largely through their own mistakes.

And given the opportunity, Italy seized it with relish and made it a half dozen wins against Scotland in Rome in the Six Nations.

In the build-up Scotland were looking to build on their recent record of 13 successive victories in all competitions against Italy and for head coach Gregor Townsend to renewing rivalry against the nation in which his tenure started seven years ago.

Torrential rain earlier in the day had eased with the sun peeking out in the Eternal City. There were an estimated 18,000 travelling Scotland supporters making  their presence felt at the Stadio Olimpico as Ben Weir, one of Doddie’s three sons, delivered the match ball, having been part of one of 18 teams to have cycled the 3,000km from Scotland to raise funds for the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation.

Italy kicked off. Andy Christie caught but Scotland were penalised at the breakdown and Paolo Garbisi must have had shades of déjà vu, as the ball toppled from the tee, just as it had in Lille in the draw against France last time out. This time, however, he regained his composure and slotted the goal (3-0, 2 mins).

Scotland hit back from scrum ball. Cameron Redpath did well to keep ball alive on the right touchline and Finn Russell’s juggling was straight out of the Edinburgh Fringe. George Turner carried venomously and Redpath eventually threatened towards the left touchline. After 18 phases, Zander Fagerson crashed over from close-range for his third try for Scotland and second against Italy.  Russell converted to maintain his 100% goal-kicking record. (3-7, 8 mins).

If that had been a heart-warming response, it got better just three minutes later.  Duhan van der Merwe had menaced on the left and when Scotland worked ball to the other flank, Blair Kinghorn dispatched Kyle Steyn who thundered over for his 11th try for his country. Russell goaled (3-14, 11 mins).

The first quarter continued at a rare old lick as, from a penalty to touch, Italy notched their first try. Lineout ball secure, scrum-half Martin Page-Relo took the ball in midfield and his kick into space was regathered by Ignacio Brex, who just managed to dot down. Garbisi converted (10-14, 15 mins).

Into the second quarter, and from another pulsating Scotland attack, the hosts were caught offside in midfield and Russell was on target (10-17, 24 mins).

Christie’s interception from Page-Relo in centre field sparked some harem-scarem handling, but Russell brought some much-needed composure with an inspiring touch-finder  that earned Scotland a 50:22.

From the lineout, Grant Gilchrist pouched and the forwards honey-potted in thumping drive for Pierre Schoeman to surge over. It was his fifth try for Scotland and second of the championship. Russell missed the conversion (10-22, 26 mins).

Garbisi pulled back three points with his second penalty – again at breakdown (13-22, 34 mins).

A breathless half was not done yet. Christie intercepted again and made 45 metres before he was clawed down by Brex, who won the penalty in the contact.

George Turner, who was arguably Scotland’s best player today, sought to counter from Italy’s clearance, but George Horne was pinged for going to deck – a really tame penalty – and Page-Relo landed from long-range, a disappointing score to concede. (16-22, 38 mins).

Van der Merwe had to hold up Ange Capuozzo in-goal as Louis Lynagh booted on ball into the Scotland 22 and it took a turnover penalty won by Rory Darge to keep out the hosts.

Half-time: Italy 16-22 Scotland

Scotland started the second-half in sparkling fashion and from more direct running from Turner, Huw Jones sailed through a gap and fed inside to George Horne who dotted down under the posts.

The score was ruled out, however, by TMO Marius van der Westhuizen who advised of an obstruction by Schoeman on No 8 Ross Vintcent.

If that was bad enough, it was compounded, as from an offside advantage off Kinghorn’s sclaffed kick, Lynagh followed up on Garbisi’s kick ahead to score on his debut.  Garbisi’s kick rebounded off the post (21-22, 44 mins).

Scotland had conceded penalties at lineout and scrum as Italy made three changes.

Momentum was certainly with Italy and from a scything break from Vintcent, which Kinghorn did well to derail, Italy went left from the ruck and sub scrum-half Stephen Varney squirmed over for Italy’s third try. Garbisi converted (28-22, 57 mins).

Scotland went to the bench too, but errors continued to pepper their game.

An offside penalty against Sam Skinner saw Garbisi extend the home advantage to nine points and Italy had scored 21 unanswered points (31-22, 72 mins).

A penalty for a deliberate knock-on against Vintcent, saw Scotland go to the touchline and from a break from Redpath, Skinner muscled over for the bonus point try. Russell converted (31-29, 78 mins).

Scotland left themselves with too much to do in spite of the frantic finale and Italy who, not for the first time, had stayed in the fight, posted their first win against Tier One opponents on home soil since the Wallabies were thwarted 28-27 in Florence in 2022.

Full-time: Italy 31-29 Scotland 

Italy: Ange Capuozzo; Louis Lynagh,Ignacio Brex, Tommaso Menoncello, Monty Ioane; Paolo Garbisi, Martin Page-Relo; Danilo Fischetti, Giacomo Nicotera, Simone Ferrari, Niccolo Cannone, Federico Ruzza, Sebastian Negri, Michele Lamaro CAPTAIN, Ross Vintcent.

Subs: Gianmarco Lucchesi for Nicotera (50 mins), Mirco Spagnolo, Giosue Zilocchi for Ferrari (50 mins) Andrea Zambonin, Lorenzo Cannone, Stephen Varney for Page-Relo (50 mins), Leonardo Marin, Federico Mori for Menoncello (71 mins).

Scotland: Blair Kinghorn (Toulouse); Kyle Steyn, Huw Jones (both Glasgow Warriors), Cameron Redpath (Bath), Duhan van der Merwe (Edinburgh Rugby); Finn Russell (Bath) co-captain, George Horne (Glasgow Warriors); Pierre Schoeman (Edinburgh Rugby), George Turner, Zander Fagerson (both Glasgow Warriors), Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh Rugby), Scott Cummings (Glasgow Warriors), Andy Christie (Saracens), Rory Darge co-captain and Jack Dempsey (both Glasgow Warriors).

Subs: Ewan Ashman (Edinburgh Rugby) for Turner (59 mins), Alec Hepburn (Exeter Chiefs) for Schoeman (59 mins), Elliot Millar-Mills (Northampton Saints) for Zander Fagerson (71 minS), Sam Skinner (Edinburgh Rugby) for Gilchrist (70 mins), Jamie Ritchie (Edinburgh Rugby) for Darge (70 mins), Matt Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors) for Christie (59 mins), Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors) for Horne (59 mins), Kyle Rowe (Glasgow Warriors).

Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia).

Assistant referees: Karl Dickson and Adam Leal (both England). TMO: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa).  Bunker: Eric Gauzins (France)

GUINNESS Player of the Match: Juan Ignacio Brex (Italy)

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