Scotland finished their Six Nations campaign on a high when they claimed a deserved 29-0 bonus-point win over Italy at Murrayfield on Saturday.
The home side were full value for their win as they dominated for large periods – especially during the first half – although Italy will be disappointed with their effort and poor goalkicking from Carlo Canna, who failed to convert three penalties in the first half, meant they failed to score any points.
The result was a perfect send-off for Scotland’s head coach Vern Cotter under whose guidance the Scots have made tremendous strides, and they finish the tournament with an unbeaten home record having won three out of five matches, which is their best performance with the New Zealander at the helm since he took over the coaching reins in 2014.
Scotland started brightly made an early statement of intent when they overpowered Italy at the opening scrum.
The Azzurri‘s forwards were blown up for illegal scrummaging and Stuart Hogg opened the scoring when he slotted the resulting penalty from 45 metres out in the fifth minute.
The next 15 minutes was fairly even as both sides tried to gain the ascendancy although Italy missed a golden opportunity to open their account in the 21st minute when Canna was off target with a fairly straightforward shot at goal, after John Barclay was penalised for an indiscretion at a ruck.
Five minutes later, Huw Jones made a line break on the edge of his 22 but stumbled when trying to beat the final defender on Italy’s five-metre line. That was the Stormers midfielder’s final act of this Test as he injured his ankle in that run and was then replaced by Matt Scott.
Scotland were eventually rewarded just before the half-hour mark when Finn Russell went over for the opening try after gathering a perfectly-timed pass from Ali Price close to Italy’s try-line.
Russell dusted himself off and added the extras before Canna missed his second easy penalty attempt shortly afterwards after Jonny Gray was penalised for obstructing Sergio Parisse.
Scotland did not waste any time to extend their lead and just before half-time Scott got his name onto the scoresheet when he dived on a loose ball behind Italy’s try-line, after Price delivered a teasing box kick which was knocked backwards by Hogg.
Russell failed with the conversion attempt and on the stroke of half-time Italy were awarded a penalty, but Canna’s poor goalkicking continued as he failed with his third effort from the kicking tee.
Italy came out like men possessed after the interval and spent the first 15 minutes of the second half camped inside the home side’s half.
The Azzurri restricted play mostly to their forwards but missed a golden opportunity to open their account when they did strike out wide with their backs, Hogg and Scott doing well to hold Angelo Esposito up in the tackle when he went over Scotland’s try-line in the 49th minute.
Shorlty afterwards, Scotland were reduced to 14 men when their captain, Barclay, was sent to the sin bin for deliberately collapsing a maul close to his try-line.
But despite being a man down, Scotland launched a gallant defensive effort and kept the visitors at bay for the next 10 minutes.
This was best illustrated in the 51st minute when Edoardo Padovani knocked on a pass from Esposito with the try-line begging which summed up the lack of finishing power Italy had, having been largely in control since the break.
Ten minutes later, Scotland made them pay when Tim Visser beat Tommaso Benvenuti in a foot race to touch down after Hogg delivered a chip kick in the build-up.
Russell converted which sealed the win for the hosts, and when Tommy Seymour crossed for Scotland’s fourth try, after running onto a pass from Hogg deep inside Italy’s 22, they also had the bonus point in the bag to give Cotter the perfect send-off.
Tries: Russell, Scott, Visser, Seymour
Cons: Russell 3
Yellow Card: Barclay
Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Alex Dunbar, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Ali Price, 8 Ryan Wilson, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 John Barclay (c), 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Gordon Reid Replacements: 16 Fraser Brown, 17 Allan Dell, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Tim Swinson, 20 Cornell Du Preez, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Duncan Weir, 23 Matt Scott
Italy: 15 Edoardo Padovani, 14 Angelo Esposito, 13 Tommaso Benvenuti, 12 Luke McLean, 11 Giovanbattista Venditti, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Edoardo Gori, 8 Sergio Parisse (c), 7 Abraham Steyn, 6 Maxime Mata Mbanda’, 5 George Biagi, 4 Marco Fuser, 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Ornel Gega, 1 Andrea Lovotti
Replacements: 16 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 17 Sami Panico, 18 Dario Chistolini, 19 Andries Van Schalkwyk, 20 Federico Ruzza, 21 Francesco Minto, 22 Marcello Violi, 23 Luca Sperandio
Date: Saturday, March 18
Venue: Murrayfield, Edinburgh
Referee: Pascal Gauzère (France)
Assistant Referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Luke Pearce (England)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)