Rugby World Cup 2007
Scotland battle past Italy to progress
September 29, 2007
Chris Paterson successfully lands a kick to help Scotland to victory over Italy
© Getty Images
Scotland edged out Italy 18-16 in their crucial Rugby World Cup Pool C clash at the Geoffroy-Guichard Stadium in St Etienne to qualify for the quarter-finals.
A flawless kicking display by Chris Paterson secured Scotland a World Cup quarter-final place at the expense of Italy in a tense but scrappy Pool C eliminator in St Etienne.
The Gloucester utility back nailed six penalties out of six as the Scots squeezed home in a error-strewn game to reach the tournament's last eight for the sixth successive occasion.
The Italians scored the game's only try - through Alessandro Troncon - and had 11 points from the point of David Bortolussi, but the latter missed a late penalty effort which would have sent the Azzurri through.
Frank Hadden's side will probably now play Argentina in Paris in the quarter-finals.
Scotland went into the game aiming to make the quarter-finals for the sixth successive World Cup.
Form made the Scots favourites to secure a last-eight berth and a probable clash with Argentina.
Unlike the struggling Italians, Frank Hadden's men had claimed bonus points in group wins over Romania and Portugal.
But the Azzurri showed in beating Scotland 37-17 at Murrayfield in this year's RBS 6 Nations Championship that they could never be discounted.
Hadden had a full-strength team at his disposal, with Paterson and Simon Webster the only survivors from the largely second-string outfit that were beaten 40-0 by pool winners New Zealand last Sunday.
Pierre Berbizier's Italy, who had never gone beyond the group stages at a World Cup, were missing captain and talismanic lock Marco Bortolami.
And they were also short of confidence and form heading into a match that was set to be played in light drizzle at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard.
The atmosphere at kick-off was white-hot in the stadium nicknamed 'The Cauldron', and Scotland were first to settle.
Achieving turnover ball in the first ruck, the Italians were penalised at the resulting scrum and the reliable Paterson knocked over the penalty from the diagonal.
The winger was at it again three minutes later. Scotland again won the battle at the breakdown on a counter-attack after the Azzurri had spilled possession up field, and Paterson - this time from the right flank - calmly stroked over.
Italy were a bundle of nerves, and Pez kicked his restart straight into touch to put the Scots back on the front foot.
Mauro Bergamasco was then sent to the cooler for 10 minutes after tackling Simon Taylor early, just as the flanker was about to receive Paterson's inside pass close to the Italy try-line.
But out of nothing, the Italians hit back. Full-back Rory Lamont fumbled an up-and-under from Pez, Josh Sole gathering the rebound.
At the breakdown, scrum-half Troncon dummied a pass right only to squirm over himself from three yards.
Bortolussi converted and added a penalty moments later to put Azzurri 10-6 ahead after 18 minutes.
Lamont landed on his head in a nasty-looking collision with Andrea Masi on 21 minutes, and got to his feet gingerly.
His team-mates were also suffering with Italy gaining the upper hand and errors creeping into Scotland's game.
Fly-half Dan Parks tried to add some urgency and dummied himself free in midfield, before being callously tripped by Mirco Bergamasco. The centre got away with it, with Italy even turning over possession to add insult to injury.
Lamont failed to recover from his knock and was helped off after 26 minutes, to be replaced by Hugo Southwell.
Bortolussi blew the chance to put his side 13-6 ahead when he slid a penalty wide in the 28th minute, and Paterson made him pay.
Parks was taken out off the ball and from halfway, Paterson kicked the penalty to maintain his 100% tournament record with the boot.
And after Italy were punished for hands in the ruck moments later, the new Gloucester man struck again to put Scotland 12-10 ahead.
There was little free-flowing rugby on offer, with both teams content on gaining territory with the boot in wet conditions.
But the accuracy of Paterson was keeping the Scots ahead at the interval.
Bortolussi was short with a penalty two minutes after the restart, and Italy were persisting with their tedious tactic of bombarding the Scotland back three with the high ball - much to the dismay of the crowd.
Paterson kept plugging away with the boot, nailing his fifth successive penalty after another Azzurri infringement at the breakdown to make it 15-10 after 47 minutes.
The contest was hardly thrill-a-minute as the error count increased.
But it suited Scotland, who were armed with Paterson's reliable boot, and the winger nonchalantly directed his sixth three-point attempt through the sticks to nudge his side further ahead.
A rare raid at the other end saw Nathan Hines penalised for a high tackle and the lock, somewhat unfairly, was sent to the sin-bin.
Bortolussi was successful with the resulting penalty to keep Italy within a converted try of the Scots.
With a man advantage, Italy set up camp in Scotland's half and used their renowned pack to make headway.
It worked and after Allister Hogg came in at the side of a rolling maul, Bortolussi landed another three-pointer to make it 18-16.
For the first time in the match, Scotland managed to put together a series of phases, but a Paterson handling error 25 yards out meant it came to nought.
With Hines back on, the Scots were able to regroup and there remained nothing in it with 10 minutes left.
The tension was building, with both sides desperate to keep their discipline with just two points in it.
Scotland were the first to infringe though, Craig Smith coming in at the side of a ruck.
But Bortolussi was agonisingly wide with his 76th-minute penalty - his third miss of the night - and Scotland breathed again.
And Hadden's men braved an Italian onslaught in the final nerve-racking minutes to squeeze into the knockout stages.
Scotland: R Lamont; S Lamont, Webster, Dewey, Paterson; Parks, Blair; Kerr, Ford, Murray, Hines, Hamilton, White (capt), Hogg, Taylor.
Replacements: Lawson, Smith, MacLeod, Brown, Cusiter, Henderson, Southwell.
Italy: Bortolussi; Robertson, Canale, Mirco Bergamasco, Masi; Pez, Troncon (capt); Perugini, Festuccia, Castrogiovanni, Dellape, Del Fava, Sole, Mauro Bergamasco, Parisse.
Replacements: Ongaro, Lo Cicero, Bernabo, Ghiraldini, Griffen, De Marigny, Galon.