Italy 16-12 Scotland, Six Nations, February 27
Italy stun Scotland in Rome
February 27, 2010
Italy's Mirco Bergamasco slots a kick at the Stadio Flaminio
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Italy scored their first Six Nations success for two years with a hard-fought 16-12 victory over Scotland at the Stadio Flaminio.
A second-half try from replacement scrum-half Pablo Canavosio proved the match-winning score in a closely fought contest with the Scots left to rue a series of costly missed opportunities. Italy's Mirco Bergamasco and Scotland's Dan Parks exchanged two penalties apiece in the opening period and their kicking duel continued after the break with the visitors edging ahead for the first time just past the hour mark. But Italy rallied and struck the killer blow soon after to secure their first Championship win since Scotland's last visit to Rome in 2008.
Both sides entered the clash without a victory in this year's Championship and desperate to open their account and avoid the prospect of the Wooden Spoon. Italy were unchanged from the side that made England work for their narrow win a fortnight ago while Scotland had been stripped of the services of Chris Paterson, Thom Evans and Rory Lamont through injury in the wake of their epic clash with Wales - with fullback Hugo Southwell, Ulster wing Simon Danielli and Glasgow's Max Evans drafted into the starting XV.
Mistakes blighted a lively opening during which both sides offered invention and brute force in equal measure. But it was the home side that broke the deadlock on ten minutes with Bergamasco putting them ahead with a penalty after the Scottish pack had buckled under pressure in the shadow of their own posts.
The more efficient Italian forward effort brought further reward shortly after with Parks forced to scramble the ball into touch inside his own 22. From the resulting lineout John Barclay was penalised for a blatant infringement at the ruck and Bergamasco had no trouble in doubling the hosts' lead. Italy continued to have the better of the opening exchanges with impressive centre Gonzalo Garcia proving a thorn in Scotland's side.
Parks' boot was used well to keep the Italians at bay and a rare lineout steal saw Barclay drive deep into the Italy 22 before centre Graeme Morrison added a bit more grunt. But they were unable to work an opening and had to settle for a penalty courtesy of Parks. The Scots took heart from that foray but poor execution and some costly errors continued to let them down while Italy were forced to live off the scraps.
A careless foot in touch from Southwell gifted Italy great field position but they failed to capitalise with an attempted chip and chase from prop Martin Castrogiovanni a reflection of their limited creativity with the ball in hand. In contrast, Scotland were not short of ideas but still struggled for continuity and had to rely on the boot of Parks to pull them level just past the half hour.
Scotland continued to pepper the Italian defence with Barclay pouncing on a loose lineout throw before surging into the 22 but again they could not find the finishing touch with a forward pass their undoing on this occasion.
An ill-advised grubber from Tito Tebaldi handed Scotland the ball once more and Johnnie Beattie led the charge towards the Italian line but they were thwarted by flanker Josh Sole who was lucky to escape a yellow card for his desperate attempt to snuff out the danger. Parks also failed to make Italy pay with the penalty - pushing his attempt wide of the posts.
Italy showed a willingness to give the ball some air early in the second half and when Alastair Kellock strayed off-side at a ruck Bergamasco was able to restore his side's lead with his third penalty.
But back came the Scots with Beattie and Barclay again making a big impression in the Italian defence. Max Evans was unable to unlock the Azzurri with a grubber but the visitors were soon back on the front foot with Allan Jacobsen driven over the line only to be denied by some excellent defensive work from Mirco Bergamasco and the Television Match Official. The Scots were rewarded with a penalty at the following scrum and they bravely opted for another. Cusiter then looked to inject some urgency with a three kick but his side were repeatedly foiled by the Italians with Parks eventually slotting a simple drop goal to level the scores.
Italy rallied with a crowd-pleasing passage of play but they too lacked the guile to turn their pressure into points. A Bergamasco kick and chase had the Flamino faithful on their feet on the hour but this time it was Scotland's turn to scramble effectively in defence. And moments later Italy fly-half Craig Gower was penalised for going off his feet allowing Parks to put his side into the lead for the first time in the game.
But their lead was short-lived with Canale ghosting through in midfield before cutting a great line into the heart of the Scotland 22. The centre was eventually hauled down but produced a superb off-load to Canavosio who darted through to score under the posts. Bergamasco slotted the easy conversion to cement his side's lead.
Parks' boot spearheaded Scotland's riposte and his forwards followed his lead by closing in on the Italy line but Jacobsen was again denied by some desperate defence and the TMO. The prop was injured in the process forcing a re-shuffle up front that included the return of Euan Murray who had previously been replaced. But they failed to gel and lost the ball against the head at the scrum and Italy cleared the immediate danger to the delight of the home crowd.
Italy were then handed the chance to close the game out but Gower failed to find the target with his long range penalty. But Scotland failed to capitalise on his miss with basic errors returning to undermine their best efforts. With a rare victory in sight, the Italians kept the ball tight but they coughed up possession and successive penalties offered the Scots one last chance to rescue the game. But again they failed to find an opening and as a result Italy held on for another famous win.
Graham Jenkins is the Senior Editor of ESPNscrum.