Saturday 24 February 2018

Buoyant Robinson looks to top World Cup pool

Scotland 21
Italy 8

Simon Turnbull

The final say in Scotland's Six Nations campaign came from their 104-cap veteran, who produced a piece of try-saving brilliance.

With three minutes remaining, and the wooden spoon already safely avoided, Chris Paterson (32) denied Luke McLean with a textbook cover tackle in the corner, just as he had foiled Ben Foden at Twickenham a week earlier. Italy's replacement full-back could not believe it, slamming his fists on the turf in frustration.

If only he had been around when Maxime Medard scored for France on opening day, things might not have been so disappointing for the nation that had been seen as dark horses.

But then the margins have always been wafer-thin for Scotland, given their lack of playing resources. Rather like the 12st 8lb Paterson, who started the Six Nations outside the selection frame but has surely played his way into a fourth World Cup, they need to punch above their weight.

It was a point that coach Andy Robinson underlined when reflecting on a frustrating championship and looking ahead to New Zealand 2011.

"Scotland, at their very best, have the ability to beat anybody," he said. "But if we drop off in any shape or form against any team, they will beat us. If we do that against Romania or Georgia in our first two pool matches at the World Cup, we'll get beaten.

"We won't fear England; we showed last week that we can go toe to toe with them. And we won't fear Argentina; we've beaten them away from home. The important thing is getting out of the pool and we want to focus on getting out by winning it."

The one win that secured fifth place in the Six Nations came after they managed to score a try for the first time in nine Murrayfield matches -- their two came from Nick de Luca and Nikki Walker.

It was a success built on a solid set-piece platform, with the 6ft 9in Richie Gray producing another stand-out display. "The consistency of his performances has been immense," Robinson said of the Glasgow lock.

Italy could not back up their immense performance against France. They led 8-6 at the interval, Andrea Masi having rumbled past Walker on his way to a gift of a score, but fell away after their bullocking full-back departed with injury.

Coach Nick Mallett looks like he may depart too but at least he could savour a rare sight -- his hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini outpacing Scotland centre Sean Lamont in a race for a hacked ball.

"Sean Lamont didn't have to throw in at the line-out or push in the scrum, but still Leonardo was faster than him," Mallett said. (© Independent News Service)

Scotland -- C Paterson; N Walker, J Ansbro (N De Luca 19), S Lamont (D Parks 78), S Danielli; R Jackson, R Lawson (M Blair 64); A Jacobsen, R Ford (S Lawson 64), G Cross (E Murray 64); R Gray, A Kellock; N Hines (A Strokosch 54), J Barclay, K Brown (R Vernon 74).

Italy -- A Masi (L McLean 32); T Benvenuti, G Canale, A Sgarbi (P Canavosio 69), M Bergamasco; K Burton (L Orquera 59), F Semenzato; S Perugini (A Lo Cicero 59), L Ghiraldini (C Festuccia 79), M Castrogiovanni; C Del Fava (V Bernabo 54), Q Geldenhuys; A Zanni, P Derbyshire (R Barbieri 59), S Parisse.

Ref -- S Walsh (New Zealand).

Irish Independent

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