Gritty Scotland avoid wooden spoon
March 19, 2011
Nikki Walker scored Scotland's second try
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Scotland avoided the wooden spoon with a deserved 21-8 victory over Italy on Saturday.
Nick De Luca scored Scotland's first try at Murrayfield since November 2009 and Nikki Walker added another in the same corner as the hosts turned the game in their favour midway through the second-half.
Scotland had trailed 8-6 at the break as Andrea Masi, who was forced off injured before the interval, scored a try and Mirco Bergamasco a penalty to cancel out two kicks at goal from Chris Paterson.
Paterson finished with 11 points - three penalties and one conversion - as Scotland ended a run of four straight losses with head coach Andy Robinson's second Six Nations win in 10 attempts, but his first at Murrayfield.
The last time Scotland, who entered the tournament on a run of five wins in six Tests, won a Six Nations match on their own track was over Italy two years ago and Saturday's triumph restored some pride in World Cup year.
Italy's 37-17 win at Murrayfield in February 2007 was their only previous victory away from Rome in Six Nations history and the Azzurri travelled to Edinburgh buoyed by their 22-21 win over France last weekend.
Scotland conceded three converted tries in the opening six minutes four years ago but today made early inroads into the Italy defence and went ahead through a fourth-minute Paterson penalty.
Richie Gray twice stole the ball from successive Italy lineouts, but Scotland failed to capitalise on each occasion, relinquishing possession, and Paterson was penalised for offside at a ruck. Bergamasco, the scorer of 17 points against France last week, including the winning penalty, missed his kick, but almost immediately Italy went in front.
Masi seared through weak defence from Walker, who was called into the Scotland XV on Friday after Max Evans failed a fitness test, wide on the left and went on to touch down. Bergamasco hit the post with the conversion attempt.
Sean Lamont, twice, and Joe Ansbro helped Scotland run the length of the field soon after, with Simon Danielli stopped a yard short. Scotland were awarded a penalty for offside and Paterson put the hosts 6-5 ahead, but the lead came at a cost as centre Ansbro was forced off with an apparent knee injury. De Luca came on in his place.
Danielli was penalised for not rolling away outside the Scotland 22 and Bergamasco slotted the subsequent penalty to restore Italy's lead. Masi - injured in the same move which accounted for Ansbro - limped from the field to be replaced by Luke McLean as Italy were also forced into a change before the interval. The visitors continually infringed at the breakdown, but Paterson scuffed the chance to kick Scotland into a half-time lead as his third attempt at goal dropped short and wide.
Scotland had an opportunity early in the second-half when Lamont kicked through a dropped ball in the Italy backline at halfway. However, his foot race with Leonardo Ghiraldini was won by the Italy hooker 10 metres out.
Scotland had the put in at the scrum and, following Jackson's half break, De Luca scored in the corner after receiving Nathan Hines' offload. It was the Edinburgh centre's first try in his 24th Test. Paterson missed the conversion attempt as Scotland's lead remained at three points. Soon the hosts' advantage was extended as Walker made up for his defensive lapse in the first-half. The right wing popped up on the left and ghosted past McLean to score in the corner. Paterson added the conversion and a further penalty to give the hosts a 13-point lead with 12 minutes remaining.
The fullback then made a try-saving tackle on McLean and strong Scotland defence kept Italy at bay for a deserved victory as the visitors finished at the foot of the Championship table on points difference.
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