Robinson rues Scots' wooden display
The Romans knew they had to be wary of Greeks bearing gifts, but they have learned to love the generosity of the Scots.
In slumping to their fourth defeat in six visits to the Eternal City on championship business, Scotland demonstrated all the ruinous profligacy of their previous setbacks, coughing up soft points as they lost a game they could probably have won at a canter.
Andy Robinson, the Scotland coach, had laughed off the suggestion that the Stadio Flaminio fixture was a wooden-spoon decider, but most of the kilted supporters who trudged out of the ground were of a mind that a tartan ribbon had just been tied around the tournament's booby prize.
In the bars of Rome, the double whammy of drab defeat and a wallet-walloping exchange rate fuelled the gloomy consensus that their side's only remaining hope of taking anything from this year's Six Nations relies on England being as abject at Murrayfield as they were on their last two visits to Edinburgh.
As Robinson held the England reins in the 2006 match, which Scotland won 18-12, he might have a better insight than most, but the only factors he can control are those that involve his own side.
His most pressing concern must be sharpening those basic skills which Scotland lacked in the opening stages in Rome. In the first quarter, the Scots had enough possession to build a healthy lead; instead, they ended that period 6-0 down.
"It's about improving our skill levels, about improving our ability to catch the ball under pressure," Robinson said.
Some sublime kicking from hand by Dan Parks, who won his second successive man-of-the-match award, gave Scotland the positional platform to claw their way back to parity around the half-hour mark, but it was a meagre return for 30 minutes of effort in the sapping Rome sunshine.
Frustrated throughout by a set of Italian forwards who would sooner sell their sisters into slavery than see the opposition secure quick ball, Scotland struggled to build momentum and surrendered hard-won territory all too easily at times.
The game swung towards Italy in the 69th minute when Pablo Canavosio, the replacement scrum-half, scored the try that gave his side a lead they would never surrender.
The Scotland defence had been pulled out of shape, but they were still guilty of failing to impede either Canavosio or Gonzalo Canale, the centre whose break set up the chance. From then, Italy simply ground through the phases, denying Scotland the possession they needed to stage a comeback.
"We are very satisfied," beamed Italy coach Nick Mallett. "We'd been working on our attack in recent weeks and we've now shown we can play quick rugby." (© Daily Telegraph, London)