As Scotland collapsed into an incoherent shambles in Rome, Andy Robinson, their head coach, was left fighting not to lose his second international job in six years.
Seven defeats in the last seven games, the worst losing run in 14 years, the first Six Nations Championship whitewash in eight years, has left his Scotland future up in the air just as a similar run of results ended his England career.
Typically, he gave no real hints as to his own thoughts on the subject when he spoke straight after the game. It was easy to see the emotion churning around inside him, but much harder to work out what he makes of his own future after declaring at the start of the season that he had a "special" bunch of players to work with.
"I have a contract to 2015," he said. "There will be a review of this game and the Six Nations as whole, then I will do a debrief and talk to Mark Dodson [the SRU chief executive] and go through what happens next. I know that there will be a lot of talk about this, but now is not the right time, we will look at things over the next couple of weeks. I will have to go away and reflect on the Six Nations and on the future."
In terms of numbers and results this has been a disastrous season for him. It started badly with the failed World Cup campaign, and has got worse. At least in the early games of the Six Nations, he could comfort himself with the feeling that the Scots were establishing a style that sooner or later would reap its rewards, but the evidence of this game was that all those gains have been thrown away.
This was Italy's first win under their new coach, Jacques Brunel, and was rapturously received by the 73,000 crowd. But Robinson probably knew before the match that it was going to be a long afternoon when the proceedings opened with Allan Jacobsen twisting an ankle during the warm-up. He was replaced by Jon Welsh making his debut, and he was a true rarity in emerging from the game with his credit enhanced.
Scotland were outgunned up front, the lineout, which was perfect through the first three games, was a shambles with half their throw-ins ending in Italian hands, and the attacking play was as blunt as it has been all season.
In a period dominated by two teams that did not share a competent attacking idea between them, the period ended with the teams tied at three apiece, Mirco Bergamasco and Greig Laidlaw each kicking penalties.
The writing was already on the wall for Scotland, however. In the closing minutes Nick de Luca, the centre, picked up a yellow card, his second of the Six Nations and almost as brain-dead as the first since it was given for trying to kick the ball out of the scrum half's hands. Maybe not quite as daft as tackling a player three seconds after he kicked the ball, but still stupid.
It left Scotland shorthanded and eventually, Italy turned that into the killer blow, the ball being recycled patiently until they caught the Scots outnumbered in De Luca's defensive area and Giovanbattista Venditti, the wing, cut back across the angle to score the game's only try.
Scotland gave themselves some hope with a second Laidlaw penalty, but a second yellow card, this time for Jim Hamilton, the lock, for pulling down a lineout, put them back under pressure and even when the roles were reversed with Alessandro Zanni, the flanker, sent for a rest over an offside offence, Scotland could not find the continuity to take advantage. Instead it was Kristopher Burton, the Italy out-half who set a seal on his side's celebrations with a late drop-goal.
Scorers -- Italy: G Venditti try;
M Bergamasco pen, K Burton con, dg. Scotland: G Laidlaw 2 pens.
Italy: A Massi; G Venditti, T Benvenuti, G Canale (Toniolatti 69), M Bergamasco; K Burton, E Gori (T Botes 66, S Favaro 71); A Lo Cicero (Cittadini 51), F Ongaro (M Vosawai 59), M Castrogiovanni (Lo Cicero Vaina 66), Q Geldenhuys (J Furno 75), M Bortolami, A Zanni, R Barbieri (T d'Apice 56), S Parisse.
Scotland: S Hogg; M Evans, N de Luca, G Morrison, S Lamont; G Laidlaw (R Jackson 69), M Blair; J Welsh, R Ford, G Cross (E Murray 49), R Gray (A Kellock 54), J Hamilton, J Barclay (R Vernon 69), R Rennie, D Denton.
Referee: A Rolland (Ireland).
Sunday Indo Sport