Guinness Six Nations
Italy 0-17 Scotland
Stuart Hogg scored a stunning try as Scotland secured their first win of the 2020 Guinness Six Nations in an engaging contest away at Italy.
The full-back weaved his way through Italy’s defence from 50 metres in what will surely be one of the tries of the Championship to kick-start a much-improved performance.
It was also a moment of redemption for the Scotland captain after he made a pair of costly mistakes in Scotland’s two previous defeats to Ireland and England.
Chris Harris and Adam Hastings also crossed for Gregor Townsend’s side in the second half, while their defence – marshalled by the outstanding Hamish Watson – were resolute and kept the Azzurri at bay.
Without a try in the 2020 Championship prior to kick-off, Scotland’s determination to get that monkey off their back was evident from the get-go.
A thumping Hogg kick deep in Italian territory set up a steady platform but a knock-on at the five-metre line and then a missed Hastings penalty made for an untidy start.
Italy in comparison scored three tries in Paris two weeks ago and appeared confident with the ball, demonstrated superbly by the effervescent Mattia Bellini.
The winger collected the ball inside his own 22 before stepping past one man and racing away into open space, sprinting deep into Scotland territory. He eventually passed left to Jayden Hayward, who only had to slip another pass wide to Matteo Minozzi and Italy would have scored, but Scotland’s scrambling defence forced him into touch five metres shy.
Had the Azzurri finished that off, it would have been one of the tries of the Championship. But instead they had to watch Hogg score a special try of his own to put Scotland ahead.
Carlo Canna’s kick from inside his own half lacked depth and, faced with an unstructured defensive line, Scotland moved the ball from left to right, where Hogg, taking it on half-way, sprinted past Seb Negri and round Hayward to score.
That marked his 20th international try, moving him level fourth all time for Scotland, and the visitors almost had a second shortly after when Watson made a break down the left and Sam Johnson slipped in Ali Price, only for the TMO to spot a forward pass.
Italy failed to get points in the first half, with Tommaso Allan striking the outside of the post with a penalty just before the break.
With Italy gaining in confidence just before the half, Scotland knew they needed to up it after the break – and they did just that.
Jamie Ritchie almost dotted down from close range but knocked-on following a move that also involved Watson and Magnus Bradbury.
But in the 47th minute, they did go ahead as Harris burrowed his way from close range after they camped on the Italian line.
But Italy recovered and almost hit back as Matteo Minozzi and Bellini burst into the 22 before Bradbury turned the ball over on his own five-metre line.
Scotland, confidence growing following their two tries, almost nipped in for a third when Blair Kinghorn and Harris broke forward at pace but Italy just got back in time to stop them.
Franco Smith’s side struggled to create much in Scotland’s 22 in the final quarter, while replacement hooker Federico Zani was sin-binned for lifting Grant Gilchrist in the ruck.
Scotland wrapped it up with just two minutes to go when Hastings picked up the ball from the back of a ruck, spotted there were no Italian defenders on the blindside and ghosted through to score.
After a shaky start, Scotland now enter the second rest week on an upward curve and next host France at BT Murrayfield off the back of a much-improved performance.
Meanwhile, Italy are without a win in the 2020 Championship and next travel to Dublin to face Ireland.