Saturday 21 April 2018

Townsend: This feels as good as beating England

Italy 27 Scotland 29

Sean Maitland of Scotland scores the team's third try. Photo: Getty Images
Sean Maitland of Scotland scores the team's third try. Photo: Getty Images

Andy Newport

Gregor Townsend says Scotland's roller-coaster victory over Italy felt just as good as toppling England. The Scots had to fight back from 12 points down to ensure their campaign did not end on a whimper.

Greig Laidlaw struck the winning penalty with just 90 seconds left as the Dark Blues finally shook off the plucky Azzurri. The result means Townsend's team end the campaign with three wins for the second year running, and the head coach believes that is proof of their growing capabilities.

Ali Price of Scotland celebrates following his side's win. Photo: Getty Images
Ali Price of Scotland celebrates following his side's win. Photo: Getty Images

"It's great to pick up an away win," said Townsend after Scotland ended their two-year wait for a Six Nations victory outside Edinburgh. "Today's game will be as valuable as the win against England in terms of experience this group has and being able to beat teams when you are not playing your best.

"I said before the game that today was going to be a roller-coaster and it's been like that during the championship. We went missing during that first game in Cardiff but got things back against France and England. We were getting better with each game. Even in the Ireland game we did a lot of good things."

Fraser Brown and John Barclay scored for the Scots during the opening 40 minutes but they went in behind at half-time after Tommaso Allan and Matteo Minozzi touched down. Things were looking perilous when Allan scored again but tries from Sean Maitland and Stuart Hogg put Scotland back in the lead.

It appeared victory was slipping away when Allan's penalty nudged Italy ahead once more with just five minutes left. But Laidlaw kept his nerve to nail the winning kick as the clock ticked towards full-time.

Italy's Sergio Parisse vies with Scotland Tim Swinson. Photo: Getty Images
Italy's Sergio Parisse vies with Scotland Tim Swinson. Photo: Getty Images

Defeat means Italy have equalled France's 1911-20 record of 17 straight championship losses. But coach Conor O'Shea said: "We're coming. Boy, we played some rugby out there against a team who have beaten Australia, beaten England and were close to beating New Zealand.

"Did we not game-manage? Yes, at times, you could say we didn't. The only way for some young players to learn is by being out there."

Scorers - Italy: Allan (2), Minozzi tries; Allan 3 cons, 2 pens. Scotland: Brown, Barclay, Maitland, Hogg tries; Laidlaw 3 cons, 1 pen.

Italy: Minozzi; Benvenuti (Hayward 59), Bisegni, Castello (Canna 74), Bellini; Allan, Violi (Palazzani 67); Lovotti (Quaglio 59), Ghiraldini (Fabiani 77), Ferrari, Zanni (Steyn 53), Budd, Negri, Polledri (Licata 67), Parisse (capt).

Scotland: Hogg; Seymour, Jones (Horne 53), Grigg, Maitland; Russell (Price 54), Laidlaw; Reid (Bhatti 40), Brown (McInally 40), Nel (Fagerson 40), Swinson (Gray 53), J Gray, Barclay (capt), Watson, Wilson (Denton 67).

Referee: P Gauzere (France)

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