Italy v Scotland: mission accomplished in Rome

A much needed win but Gregor Townsend's men will need to raise their game again for final Six Nations match against Ireland next weekend

Italian captain Michele Lamaro tackles Scotland's Rory Darge. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Italian captain Michele Lamaro tackles Scotland's Rory Darge. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

Italy 22

Scotland 33

DAVID BARNES @ Stadio Olimpico

THEY came, they saw, they conquered – but Gregor Townsend and his team will recognise that it was far from a complete performance, and will know that they have to be a lot sharper both sides of the ball for much more of the match if they are to have a fighting chance of getting a result against Six Nations championship chasing Ireland in Dublin next Saturday.

Five tries away from home in any international match is not to be sniffed at, but four of those scores came directly from counter-attack and turnover, with Darcy Graham‘s effort the only multi-phase score. The points are not likely to come as easy at the Aviva Stadium. In between the isolated highlights in this match, there was an awful lot of possession squandered through slack handling or inaccurate breakdown work.

The penalty count was down on recent weeks, to eight according to the official match stats, but at least half of those infringements were infuriatingly unnecessary.


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Scotland handed Italy an early lead when their backline strayed offside at a line-out on halfway and Paolo Garbisi fired home the 45-meter penalty with just four minutes played, and the visitors’ first real chance to test their hosts with ball in hand floundered before the move got going when Ali Price failed to connect with Sam Johnson in the middle of the park.

Then, when Edoardo Padovani fumbled a high ball, a second promising opportunity came to nothing because Zander Fagerson was called for crawling with the ball along the deck.

And when George Turner went straight off his feet clearing a ruck, it took Scotland to three penalties conceded inside the first 11 minutes, so it was little wonder they had spent most of that time hemmed into their own half – with some fine work by Matt Fagerson over a tackle keeping the Azzurri from stretching further ahead.

It finally clicked for the visitors on 18 minutes when captain Stuart Hogg ran the ball back from deep, Darcy Graham provided the link, George Turner rampaged up the right touchline and man-of-the-match Ali Price carried the move unto Italy’s 22. When the scrum-half was eventually brought down 15 yards from glory, Graham appeared on the scene again to scoop up the ball and feed Finn Russell, who fired one of his trademark miss-three passes leftward for Sam Johnson to score in the corner.

Italy came back hard, and were given a helping hand by a loose pass from Russell which allowed Toa Halafihi to set top camp deep inside Scotland’s 22, but Price res cued the situation by reading opposite number Callum Braley’s pass for an interception of his own. The scrum-half broke up field then released Kyle Steyn, who sensed that he wasn’t going to escape Italy’s scramble defence so and had the wherewithal to toe-poke a kick diagonally forward which bounced perfectly to send Chris Harris on an unchallenged canter over the home try-line.

It was bitter pill top swallow for Italy but they dug deep again, and after a long-range penalty attempt from Garbisi fell short, their perseverance was finally rewarded from a set move off scrum ball in the middle of the park, which culminated in Pierre Bruno passing back inside just before being bundled into touch by Hogg to provide Braley with the simplest of finishes,

Scotland, however, had the last word of the half with a scrum move of their own which involved Russell and Hogg tying up Italy’s midfield then Harris coming back against the grain to burst the line for his second try of the match.

 

Scotland might have been nine points ahead but they still didn’t look settled, and the unforced errors continued to come, before it finally clicked again when Graham collected an inside pass from Russell and scrambled home on 48 minutes to bring up the bonus-point.

When man-of-the-match Price cruised through a yawning gap in Italy’s bedraggled defensive line and sent Hogg in for his 26th international try on the hire mark, it looked like Scotland had finally hit their stride for the first time since Graham’s try in the first half of their round two match against Wales – but that was the last shot they fired.

Italy dominated the final quarter of the match, withe replacement winger Ange Capuozzo striking twice in the 66th and 83rd minutes. It wasn’t enough to salvage a bonus-point for the hosts but will have provided them with some sort of morale boost as they continue their battle to stay relevant in the Six Nations.

Teams –

Italy: E Padovani (M Zanon 65); P Bruno (A Capuozzo 45), J Brex (M Zanon 34-40), L Marin, M Ioane; P Garbisi, C Braley (A Fusco 51); D Fischetti (I Nemer 51), G Nicotera (L Bigi 51), P Ceccarelli (T Pasquali 51), N Cannone (D Sisi 53), F Ruzza, G Pettinelli (A Steyn 71), M Lamaro (A Steyn 15-22), T Halafihi.

Scotland: S Hogg; D Graham, C Harris, S Johnson (S Tiupulotu 75), K Steyn; F Russell (A Hastings 75), A Price (B Vellacott 75); P Schoeman (A Dell 58), G Turner (S McInally 58), Z Fagerson (W Nel 58), S Skinner (J Hodgson 75), G Gilchrist, R Darge, H Watson, M Fagerson (M Bradbury 62).

Referee: Luke Pearce (RFU)

 

Scorers –

Italy: Tries Braley, Capuozzo 2 Cons Garbisi Pen Garbisi

Scotland: Tries Johnson, Harris 2, Graham, Hogg; Cons: Russell 4.

Scoring sequence (Italy first): 0-3; 3-5; 3-10; 3-12; 8-12; 10-12; 10-17; 10-19 (h-t) 10-24; 10-26; 10-31; 10-33; 15-33; 17-33; 22-33.


U20s 6N: Italian pack power puts paid to Scots hopes

About David Barnes 3043 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

42 Comments

  1. There must be statistics somewhere that show how many times Scotland have kicked the ball long in this tournament, and how it compares with previous years. It looks as though we have a simple tactic – kick long, allow the opposition the ball, defend high, wait for them to make a mistake, and then counter attack quickly. I can’t help feeling that Gregor Townsend would have hated to be playing in this Gregor Townsend coached team. The Johnson try was an example of us at our best, with pace – Turner, Price – quick hands – Darge – and skill – Russell pass – thrown in in equal measure.
    Far from the kicks being aimless, as many are suggesting, I think they are going where we want them to go – into a kind of no man’s land. They are not for touch. They are just to create boredom or mistakes in the opposition that we hope to feed off.
    Not the best game for Russell to be asked to play. He likes fast, flat, attacking ball. Its like asking Man City players to play a long ball game.

    • Perhaps just the kick selection is off a bit. If you search for Squidgerugby on YouTube – they have an interesting analysis on why Scotland struggled so badly against France – they didn’t kick enough.

  2. My goodness, a lot of disappointment for a 33-22 win … ?

    There were certainly quite a few errors that willcost us if repeated vs Ireland, but given we’re coming off a game we should have won v Wales and a bit of a doing from France. I think it’s generally accepted that beating Italy is not a good measure, let’s see how we go re Ireland, maybe we’re due a good performance.

    Talking about Ireland, how do they get such luck. I found myself rooting for England.

    Also .. scrum penalty to E on 58 mins, why did the ref not play advantage, the ball was out … 63 mins . E on their own line, Ref gives offside, I stopped the recording just before he calls it, I can’t see anyone offside? And Ireland 6 Scrum Penalties … no Yellow?? Seems to me we’ll need to be playing the ref next week as well … 🙂

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  3. Intelligent debate aside, I hope Scotland stuff Ireland next week. Not just because I’m a Scots, but also because they’ve had the last two games handed to them on a plate due to two borderline red cards. Good side certainly, but talk about the luck of the Irish. Come on Scotland. Put Messrs Horgan and Williams firmly in their place

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    • It is tough, however it was noy a borderline red card for me, and Ryan out for the next game.
      Very hard for players to apply, but the rule is clear, they have to come for a tackle under the soulders!
      In addition, Ewels in contact afdter Ryan had passed.

  4. Mission accomplished in that the game was won and the bonus point achieved, but it was far from convincing. The gloss was certainly taken off by finishing the weaker of the two sides and conceding two late tries. On the plus side, we rediscovered some of the joys of playing fast, loose and wide – our natural adventurous game – but will find trouble against a better structured side. Ireland could well tear us a new one if we’re not careful next weekend, although they were often scrappy against England, who took their scrum apart. Turner proved that he is the most mobile h00ker in the Six Nations, while Ali Price re-discovered some outstanding form and was a pleasure to watch. Some bright moments for Hogg too, but he is sparking rather than firing on all cylinders – and not looking where you’re passing the ball is one of the first lessons you’re taught in junior rugby. Apart from the offload and some excellent spiralling passes, Russell was subdued with ball in hand and his positional kicking was pure pants. Darcy is as ever the smallest man in the side, but with the bravest heart. Overall I’d give us a six and a half out of ten.

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  5. Mission accomplished in that the game was won and the bonus point achieved, but it was far from convincing. The gloss was certainly taken off by finishing the weaker of the two sides and conceding two late tries. On the plus side, we rediscovered some of the joys of playing fast, loose and wide – our natural adventurous game – but will find trouble against a better structured side. Ireland could well tear us a new one if we’re not careful next weekend, although they were often scrappy against England, who took their scrum apart. Turner proved that he is the most mobile h00ker in the Six Nations, while Ali Price re-discovered some outstanding form and was a pleasure to watch. Some bright moments for Hogg too, but he is sparking rather than firing on all cylinders – and not looking where you’re passing the ball is one of the first lessons you’re taught in junior rugby. Apart from the offload and some excellent spiralling passes, Russell was subdued with ball in hand and his positional kicking was pure pants. Darcy is as ever the smallest man in the side, but with the bravest heart. Overall I’d give us a six and a half out of ten.

  6. A bit of a mixed bag this one. We were comfortable winners, never seriously challenged by an Italian team that is struggling. The game plan seemed fairly simple, to play for position, put the onus on Italy to play from deep and wait for their mistakes. It worked. It’ll be more difficult next week against an Irish team and pack still smarting from their game – though I doubt Scotland will be able to rely on so many scrum penalties for running round instead of pushing straight as England did, that was weird to watch.

    One thing of interest next week may be the division of back row duties, Watson and Darge were so close together, at times they seemed joined at the hip, sometimes attempting the same tackles and knocking each other about. Feels that may leave gaps elsewhere if the two players are constantly out of the game at the same time.

    Also odd to put on our ‘flair’ subs with only 4-5 mins remaining when the game had been won for some time. Yes they got a cap, but no time to show what they could do. Vellacott got a couple of swift passes away but Hastings missed a couple of tackles as he tried to get up to speed.

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    • Probably mistakenly I thought there was a rule that the team wheeling the scrum their back row had to stay at right angles to the direction of play. Obviously if you are not square you will inevitably muller the other team.
      Be kind if I am wrong!

  7. It’s still very far from clear what Townsend is trying to get this team to do and the team doesn’t seem to know either.

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    • Yes…a distinct lack of an apparent game plan. Plus, he is apparently unable to get this team to focus for the complete 80 minutes.

  8. Dear oh dear so the French and Italians saw through our vaunted defence. Chip kicks over the top by the Italians with no Scot in sight – I think Finn is amazing but only if you allow him to play. It looks like he is being coached to just kick and kick for territory – he plays totally differently for Racing. Scotland looked dangerous in broken play but no creativity from structured play, that means we have the attackers! It is a coaching issue, there’s enough time for a new coaching team to make a difference before the next world cup.

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    • The SRU should be searching for a new Internationally experienced coach, ideally with a winning track record, as soon as this 6Nations campaign is over.

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    • Definitely not what I see Rob. Finn Russell whilst clearly a talented player, is far too inconsistent. The odd very good game but mostly poor games and not enough impact. He makes more mistakes than a good 10 should. Most fans have been blinkered thinking Finn is the answer but in my humble opinion he is definitely not and changing the coach won’t make Finn Russell any more consistent.
      I doubt there is another 6 Nations team or any other tier 1 team that would choose Finn as their 10 over their current 10 and that says it all to me.
      Scotland’s longer term answer is the correct 9/10 combination and having watched a lot of Glasgow Warriors, George Horne, is Scotland’s best 9 when on top form. Partner him with Adam Hastings and Scotland will go places, certainly further than they are just now. They were otstanding together when at Glasgow and should be given the chance with Scotland in the Autumn.

      • I agree about Horne, don’t know why Townsend can’t see that. Mind you my past criticisms of Price look a bit off after last Saturday. Can he keep it up?

  9. The worrying thing for me was how we went to sleep again this time in the last 20 minutes and let Italy back in to the game. My other thought was why was our kicking not great I thought Price’s box kicking was to in to many cases not contestable and did we get Hogg to even try a 50:22 there just seemed to be a lot of aimless kicking.
    If we take anything from yesterdays England Ireland game is that if you really take the game to Ireland they can struggle. Even with Jack Nowell scrumming down they managed to better the much vaunted Irish scrum, until the last 5 minutes. The question is can Scotland do that for 80 minutes. We always seem to do better when we are totally written off like we are for next week so lets see. Two great games in prospect next time.

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    • The aimless kicking (which seems to be a Scottish thing) will be severely punished in Dublin. At the very least it’s just handing possession over and they are likely to get 50:22s back in response.

  10. Fine margins in a game of rugby – attempted intercept in Wales game that could lead to length of the pitch try is missed and you’re down a player, against Italy, it sticks and it sets up a win.

    However, I hope Scotland fans never moan about not getting decisions again.

    The pass from Price for Hoggs try looks forward, yet wasn’t formally reviewed.

    And why no penalty try for Italy for pulling a maul down that moving rapidly toward our try line.

    Sure celebrate a win, but a couple of decisions going another way, and we’d wallowing in embarrassment at a defeat.

    • Had these decisions gone differently, it would have been a different match and no-one knows what would have happened. To assume everything else would remain the same is unrealistic.

  11. A wins a win, especially with a bonus point. Scotland still seem a little flat and it’s felt that way since the autumn internationals. We never look comfortable going through the phases and can’t seem to build sustained momentum. On the plus side, we have players who can and do score from anywhere.

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  12. Some great tries, and good individual performances, so why do I feel deflated after watching the game?

    Only one of the tries (Graham’s) was really developed from our own phase play with excellent build up and execution by Finn and Darcy to score. That build up of pressure (and patience) is where the control comes from. However the others were based from counter attack that largely originated from Italian errors. Yes we took them very well but no other opposition in the 6N will be so kind.

    There just seems a lack of cohesiveness, or collective buy in to the game plan resulting in some trying too hard (running away from support) or simply trying to force things rather than recycle and go through those phases… This side will create so be patient and execute.

    Don’t know what it is, maybe Horgan is right, but all is not well in camp, and Dublin could be very painful watching unfortunately – unless big Zander gets red carded which could be our best chance down to 14!😁

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  13. Some rather harsh comments so far. OK we weren’t as dominant as we would have hoped but Italy always have a lot of the ball against us. Slightly worrying was that we let in 3 tries. The positives were that we were clinical with the tries. However we still make too many errors to trouble the likes of Ireland – need much more accuracy. Agree that our kicking game lacks direction – this hoof down the middle just gives the ball away. Russel was poor today – a lot of badly struck kicks from hand and what’s happened to the chip or grubbed.

  14. We appear to be floundering in an ocean of self doubt. We badly need a change at the helm. We have talent , you can see that by the nature of the tries we scored. However our tactics are unfathomable, although it looks to me like have adopted the style of a 1960s Italian football team. Conservative based upon defence and continual aimless kicking. Our structured attack appears to have disappeared into the ether. Talented players look nervous, unsure. Our lineout in the second half was a shambles. Steyns defence was utterly woeful.Looked like he had never played on the wing before. Wtf was that all about bringing our backs relacements on with 5 minutes to go. They should have been on after Hogg scored. The whole set up just looks wrong.

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  15. Scotland were lucky to win. At no point did they look as if they were in control. Much as I am a fan of Russell, and think he can arguably be a great player, he hasn’t been good for a number of games now. Give Thompson or Kinghorn a go. We’re going to need players like them for the RWC.Give them game time. Why bring Vellacott and Hatings 5 minutes. No chance of significant input.
    Townsend seems incapable of using the new talent coming through. In NZ, it would seem if you’re good enough, you’re old enough. He looks to be worried that if he doesn’t keep using the old guard, opinion will turn against him. Unfortunately it already has.

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    • I was disappointed with Scotland’s display but the reality is that Scotland led from the their first try onwards and at point enjoyed a 23-pt margin. This was probably our most comfortable ever 6N victory in Rome. Perhaps this shows how far Italy have fallen but to say Scotland were lucky or never in control of the game is simply not true.

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    • I did not like Townsend from his first season in charge. There is no discernible plan. Townsend has squandered the best players Scotland have ever had. Kicking the ball to the opposition must stop. The forwards work very hard to win and retain the ball. I must be dispiriting for them to see it kicks to thr opposition who set up a counter attack and the forwards have to do all that work again.
      Run the ball, pass out to the wing, take it from there. If you have to kick, kick into touch, and maybe a judicious chip over the opposition backs from time to time.

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  16. think the scottish players are being coached to a standstill with their kicking to nowhere also the forwards didnt seem to know what they were supposed to be doing at the lineouts, maybe that was the highly officious referees fault.

  17. Have enjoyed our day in the sun, fun for all travelling supporters and credit to Italy who hopefully will remain in 6 nations-see their under 20’s defeats of scotland n England and a fantastic venue to visit. However from a Scottish perspective too many penalties in the first half and too many bad kicking choices when surely trust yourself ball in hand. Ali price a deserved man of the match after less impressive displays. Finn really needs to recharge reinvigorate cos decisons very poor, aimless kicks, bad passes, lets not mention his unnessary trademark unnecessary thrown intercept and I’m a fan of his! We need to man up to go to next level.Darcy very good, what happened to scrums?school report- must do better

  18. To be honest that went much better than I feared it might. Before the game I thought we could have conjured up a scrappy defeat as in years gone by. So we came away with a bonus point win but without playing well . I thought Price, Graham, Steyn, Turner, M Fagerson and probably Skinner came out of the game in credit. Least said about the others. We don’t work nearly hard enough without the ball, we are lazy covering back, we give away needless penalties that cost us dear against good sides. Our “star” players believe too much in their own hype, if Hogg put as much attention into his passing as he does into his appearance he would be worthy of being a 3 time lion, but he keeps butchering tries by the sloppiness of his passing. And by the way was Finn playing today?

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  19. I was chatting to a neighbour before the match and we were discussing coaches. We were of the same view a national coach must be able to assume his selected team merit their inclusion for their proven ability to play and it is up to the coach to find the best way to combine the available skills in a plan for the game. Was there any plan for this game? It appeared to be a complete shambles from start to finish. Scotland were able to capitalise on Italy’s mistakes and advantage was taken in broken play by players who’ve been a bit subdued of late, Price and Hogg, but, generally, it was unimpressive and the final score flatters both teams. Being penalised for having too many players in our own lineout pretty much summed up the fiasco. We should be better than this.

  20. I wouldn’t agree with no ambition for excellence but certainly Townsend has shown no ability to deliver excellence with the best players and best levels of depth we’ve had in the professional era. When under Townsend have we ever played two good games in a row?

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  21. For those fortunate enough not to have to watch Scotland games on Irish terrestrial television you may have missed Matt Williams denigration of Scottish rugby after the Welsh game, (well responded to by Tom English in his article). Today Shane Horgan proffered his opinion that “Scotland have no ambition for excellence and that seems to be ok with them -which is why they will not reach the next level”. After calming down, some hours later, I’m reluctantly questioning is there some truth in his statement?

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    • I live in Ireland and prefer to watch all of the 6N matches on BBC or ITV. The pundits on the Irish channels are exclusively Irish or Matt Williams (enough said about him), so there is little chance of balanced analysis or commentary. Horgan in particular is regularly scathing of Scottish performances, though I agree with you that there is some truth in what he says. Scotland do seem to lack the consistency to put several good performances together and can’t seem to regularly muster the passion and intensity of other countries.

    • I live in Ireland and prefer to watch all of the 6N matches on BBC or ITV. The pundits on the Irish channels are exclusively Irish or Matt Williams (enough said about him), so there is little chance of balanced analysis or commentary. Horgan in particular is regularly scathing of Scottish performances, though I agree with you that there is some truth in what he says. Scotland do seem to lack the consistency to put several good performances together and can’t seem to regularly muster the passion and intensity of other countries.

    • Matt Willimas should be ignored. He was without a shadow of a doubt, the worst coach Scotland has ever had in the modern era. Horgan’s comments, however, are right on the money! Scotland has no ambition nor drive for excellence and they won’t have under Townsend! Time for a new coach before the RWC.

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