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Scotland break Six Nations duck to edge Italy closer to wooden spoon

Captain Stuart Hogg (R) celebrates after scoring Scotland’s first try of the Six Nations against Italy in Rome © AFP / Vincenzo PINTO

Rome, Italy, Feb 22 – Scotland got their first win of this year’s Six Nations on Saturday with a 17-0 win in Rome which looks set to condemn Italy to another wooden spoon.

A brilliant solo effort from captain Stuart Hogg also earned Scotland their first try of the tournament on 22 minutes at the Stadio Olimpico with Chris Harris and Adam Hastings adding two more in the second half.

Hastings converted his own try to make up for having missed a penalty and an earlier conversion, while Tommaso Allan messed up a penalty opportunity which would have put Italy on the scoreboard.

“Keeping a side like Italy to zero points in their home ground is massive for us, we’re going to enjoy this one,” said Hogg, who also earned his first win since taking over as captain.

“We hadn’t performed the way we wanted to in the opening two games so this gives us huge confidence to kick on and take it to France in a couple of weeks.”

Italy fell to a 25th consecutive defeat in the tournament and are set to take the wooden spoon for the 15th time.

“The boys put their hearts on the field for Italy, against an opponent that many have underestimated,” said Italy coach Franco Smith who replaced Conor O’Shea last November.

“We know what we need to improve. Physically we have to grow, we need more intensity to be competitive, and then we have to try to take the pressure off ourselves.”

Both teams had been chasing their first win of the 2020 tournament after two defeats apiece, with Italy also suffering a 42-0 thrashing against holders Wales.

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In a nervy start the Scots piled on the pressure early in sunny conditions in Rome, after their rain and windswept 13-6 defeat by England last time out, following a 19-12 defeat by Ireland.

Gregor Townsend’s side were pushed hard by the Italians who had been in the game until Federico Zani was sin-binned with ten minutes to go.

Hastings sent a penalty kick wide after eight minutes as the Italians threatened with a Mattia Bellini counter-attack, off-loading to Jayden Hayward before Scotland reacted and sent Braam Steyn into touch.

But Hogg made up for his errors which contributed to the Scots’ opening two defeats against Ireland and England.

The Exeter Chiefs full-back broke through with a brilliant solo run down the right wing.

Ali Price thought he had scored a second after half an hour with Hamish Watson racing through the Italian defence. The try was ruled out after a review showed Sam Johnson’s final pass was forward.

Allan missed a chance to reduce the deficit before the break, sending a penalty against the post.

– ‘An arm wrestle’ –

Scotland’s pressure on the line paid off after the break with Harris powering over.

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Italy replacement hooker Zani was yellow-carded for upending Grant Gilchrist at a ruck with 10 minutes to go.

And after a scrappy finale, Hastings picked up the ball and raced unchallenged to a third try, to condemn Smith to a humiliating defeat in his first game as coach at the Stadio Olimpico.

The Italians are without a win in the tournament since beating Scotland at Murrayfield in 2015, and are winless at the Stadio Olimpico for the past seven years.

“The game was still an arm-wrestle at 10-0,” said Townsend.

“We hadn’t scored a try in the first two games and today we left three or four out there.

“From an attacking point of view we need more fluency.”

Scotland next host France at Murrayfield before travelling to Wales for their final game.

Italy next travel to Ireland before hosting England in their final game which is expected be the international farewell for Italy legend Sergio Parisse.

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