Last-gasp Scots rule Rome
A last-minute drop-goal from flyhalf Duncan Weir gave Scotland a dramatic 21-20 victory over Italy in Rome on Saturday.
A last-minute drop-goal from Duncan Weir gave Scotland a dramatic 21-20 victory over Italy in Rome on Saturday.
Flyhalf Weir struck a nerveless drop goal with just seconds remaining on the clock after Josh Furno's late try - expertly converted by Luciano Orquera - had appeared to give Italy the victory.
Earlier, former Scotland Under-20 international Tommaso Allan had scored 13 first-half points for Italy, who led 13-3 at the break but the visitors stormed back through two tries from Alex Dunbar.
The second of those came on 68 minutes but four minutes later Italy were back ahead after a well-worked try was finished off by lock Furno in the right-hand corner.
Scotland were not to be bowed however and after an impressive scrum, replacement scrumhalf Chris Cusiter fed Weir, who nailed the drop-goal to secure a first win of the 2014 Six Nations for Scotland.
Whereas Scotland's line-out floundered against England, it prospered early on, stealing two Italian line-outs - Richie Gray was restored to the line-up but Jim Hamilton was the thorn in the Azzurri's side.
One of those eventually led to Tommy Seymour finding space down the right but his chip ahead was too strong and a step inside may have proved more fruitful.
While the line-out was a strength for Scotland, the scrum proved their undoing in the fist half. Italy won a penalty in their own half and enjoyed their first real passage of play in their opponents' 22.
Roberto Barbieri knocked on just short of the try-line but referee Steve Walsh had seen an earlier infringement and Allan made no mistake with his first kick on 13 minutes.
Back came Scotland and Stuart Hogg appeared to have broken the Italian line, only for Sergio Parisse, winning his record-breaking 104th cap along with Martin Castrogiovanni, to make superb tackle and dislodge the ball for good measure.
Scotland were level on 22 minutes when, after numerous phases, Italy were penalised for going off their feet and Greig Laidlaw bisected the posts for 3-3.
The Italy scrum was dominant however and it was paying dividends. On 29 minutes, the Azzurri were awarded another penalty and while Allan was off target, he made amends just after the half-hour mark when Chris Fusaro was pinged at the break down.
As the half drew to a close, Weir made a threatening burst down the middle for Scotland but Italy scored the first try of the match just before the interval after they were awarded a scrum deep into the visitors' territory.
Parisse picked up from the back of the scrum and sucked in Scotland defenders, enabling Furno to feed Allan, who forced his way over on 40 minutes before adding the extras for a 13-3 lead at the break.
Scotland trimmed the deficit to seven on 46 minutes when Italy were penalised for not releasing, Laidlaw on target again from in front of the posts.
Scott Johnson's side kept coming and found themselves camped in Italy's 22, going through phase after phase but unable to make the incisive break.
They were awarded a penalty, however, and Laidlaw opted for the quick tap but Matt Scott slipped when one on one down the right and Scotland lost possession when replacement prop Geoff Cross knocked on.
Italy could not clear their lines however and after good work from Edoardo Gori, the Azzurri scrumhalf was turned over and Scotland spread the ball to the right.
Hogg's pass was the telling one, freeing Dunbar who had the pace to scorch his way into the right-hand corner for Scotland's first try of the 2014 Championship on 53 minutes. Laidlaw could not find the target with a difficult conversion however, ensuring Italy still led by two points.
Scotland had the wind in their sails and while Italy's defence held firm for 15 minutes, Dunbar struck again to put the visitors ahead for the first time in the match.
From a scrum on half way, Sean Lamont made the half break and fed Cusiter on the inside.
He went back outside to the supporting Dunbar, who shrugged off the first challenge, sold the dummy with Scott in support, and bounced over the try-line.
Laidlaw converted for an 18-13 lead but that stirred Italy into life and back they roared and two minutes later, they were level.
Winger Leonardo Sarto made the initial break and Scotland could not bring him down and after working the ball the left, it came back to the right to Parisse who timed the killer pass to perfect - Furno the beneficiary.
Replacement flyhalf Orquera nailed the difficult conversion to put Italy 20-18 ahead with just eight minutes to go but Weir had the last word at the death.
Man of the match: Joshua Furno was a juggernaut for the Azzurri and scored a well-deserved try while Tommaso Allan had a good first half, in which he scored all of Italy’s first-half points, but he missed some crucial tackles. Sean Lamont, Matt Scott and the returning Richie Gray all had solid outings, but our man of the match is two-try hero Alex Dunbar, who ran hard all night.
Moment of the match: Duncan Weir’s last-minute drop-goal.
Villain of the match: None.
Cons: Allan, Orquera
Pens: Allan 2
Tries: Dunbar 2
Pens: Laidlaw 2
Italy: 15 Luke McLean, 14 Angelo Esposito, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 Gonzalo Garcia, 11 Leonardo Sarto, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Edoardo Gori, 8 Sergio Parisse, 7 Robert Barbieri, 6 Alessandro Zanni, 5 Joshua Furno, 4 Quintin Geldenhuys, 3 Martin Castrogiovanni, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Alberto De Marchi.
Replacements: 16 Davide Giazzon, 17 Matias Aguero, 18 Lorenzo Cittadini, 19 Marco Bortolami, 20 Paul Derbyshire, 21 Tobias Botes, 22 Luciano Orquera, 23 Tommaso Iannone.
Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Alex Dunbar, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Sean Lamont, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Greig Laidlaw (captain), 8 Johnnie Beattie, 7 Chris Fusaro, 6 Ryan Wilson, 5 Jim Hamilton, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Moray Low, 2 Scott Lawson, 1 Ryan Grant.
Replacements: 16 Ross Ford, 17 Alasdair Dickinson, 18 Geoff Cross, 19 Tim Swinson, 20 David Denton, 21 Chris Cusiter, 22 Duncan Taylor, 23 Max Evans.
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
Assistant referees: Jérôme Garcès (France), Luke Pearce (England)
TMO: Geoff Warren (England)