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Hogg eases pressure on Townsend

Italy 0 Scotland 17

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Scotland's Stuart Hogg (left) in action. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

Scotland's Stuart Hogg (left) in action. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

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Scotland's Stuart Hogg (left) in action. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

Stuart Hogg helped to relieve some of the pressure on coach Gregor Townsend as his stunning solo try sent Scotland on their way to their first win of the Six Nations campaign.

The new skipper has had a championship to forget so far after costly mistakes in the defeats to Ireland and England. But he went some way to atoning for those blunders as his 20th Test touchdown opened the scoring in Rome.

The Dark Blues were again guilty of failing to take their chances but Chris Harris and Adam Hastings also got on the scoresheet at the Stadio Olimpico to give Townsend some respite after a bruising tournament overshadowed by the Finn Russell row.

That bust-up with Scotland's star man, combined with last year's early World Cup exit and six games without a win in the Six Nations, had placed the head coach under increasing scrutiny but his team will now welcome France to Murrayfield in a fortnight with confidence renewed after a deserved victory.

A monster 60-yard kick from Hogg forced a line-out deep into the Azzurri's 22 but while the hosts were caught out by Stuart McInally's long throw for Sam Johnson, they were back in position to hold up Hogg before a knock-on from Magnus Bradbury saw the Scots frustrated.

The Dark Blues' scrum was working well and a big shunt should have been rewarded with an easy three points. Adam Hastings, however, shanked a simple kick almost in front of the sticks.

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Scotland's Stuart McInally is tackled by Italy's Callum Braley and Italy's Sebastian Negri. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

Scotland's Stuart McInally is tackled by Italy's Callum Braley and Italy's Sebastian Negri. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

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Scotland's Stuart McInally is tackled by Italy's Callum Braley and Italy's Sebastian Negri. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

It was a sloppy start from Townsend's team and it almost became a disastrous one as another poor swipe of Hastings' boot released Mattia Bellini. The Zebre wing danced past three tackles before storming up field, with Jayden Hayward only prevented from scoring by Hogg's last-ditch tackle.

Italy had to play out the final stages a man light after Federico Zani was binned for a tip-tackle on Grant Gilchrist.

And with their legs tiring they could do nothing as Hastings pick-pocketed a ruck before cantering in under the posts to put the seal on a much-needed win.

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Scotland's Hamish Watson in action with Italy's Giosue Zilocchi. Photo: Ciro De Luca/Reuters

Scotland's Hamish Watson in action with Italy's Giosue Zilocchi. Photo: Ciro De Luca/Reuters

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Scotland's Hamish Watson in action with Italy's Giosue Zilocchi. Photo: Ciro De Luca/Reuters

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Scotland's George Horne is tackled by Italy's Giosue Zilocchi. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

Scotland's George Horne is tackled by Italy's Giosue Zilocchi. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

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Scotland's George Horne is tackled by Italy's Giosue Zilocchi. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

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