Four-try Scotland take bonus point win against Italy
Florence (Italy) (AFP) –
Scotland made it five wins in succession with a hard-fought 28-17 bonus-point victory over Italy in the Autumn Nations Cup in Florence on Saturday.
The Scots played on the back foot for most of a first half which saw tries for Italy full-back Matteo Minozzi and Scotland wing Duhan van der Merwe.
But after slipping 14-7 down early in the second half, Gregor Townsend's side hit back with tries from prop Zander Fagerson, lock Scott Cummings and replacement hooker George Turner to complete the win.
Italy's 20-year-old fly-half Paolo Garbisi fired over four penalties but missed the conversion.
With the France v Fiji matched called off because of coronavirus, Scotland lead Group B. Their next match is against France next week while Italy are due to face the afflicted Fijians.
"I always ask the boys to believe in themselves as individuals and us as a collective," Scotland captain Stuart Hogg told Amazon Prime Video.
"The boys want to go out there and express themselves. You can see that we have a smile on our faces and we're enjoying our rugby and ultimately we're winning Test matches.
"That's what we're here to do and long may it continue."
Scotland went into the game looking for their fifth successive win but missing both first choice fly-halves Finn Russell and Adam Hastings.
That meant a first start since 2016 for 29-year-old Duncan Weir whose previous experience against Italy included kicking a match-winning drop goal 20 seconds from time in 2014.
Italy, meanwhile, were desperately in need of a win, having had a terrible four years since beating the Springboks at the same Florence ground in 2016. Their record in the Six Nations alone since then showed 27 straight defeats.
But it was the Italians who came out quickest, Garbisi, winning his third cap, putting them ahead with two early penalties as the Scottish pack, who lost prop Rory Sutherland after just 15 minutes, struggled.
Scotland hit back when Edinburgh wing van der Merwe collected from Ali Price to skate over from five metres for his second try in successive games.
Weir converted to put Scotland 7-6 up but the lead was short-lived as it was the Italians' turn to strike back quickly with a stunning try that moved 60 metres up the pitch.
It started with Garbisi who triggered a great break from outside centre Marco Zanon.
He handed off Weir and Darcy Graham, before feeding Marcello Violi. Wing Mattia Bellini stayed on his feet long enough to pop the ball up for Minozzi to score. Garbisi's conversion, though, came back off the post.
Italy stretched their 11-7 half-time lead early in the second half with another Garbisi penalty.
But Scotland were regaining control. Weir had a try ruled out for a forward pass but shortly after Scotland were level.
The home side stopped playing after they thought there had been a Scotland knock-on but prop Fagerson continued and trundled over the line.
Weir's conversion levelled it at 14-14 with 30 minutes to play.
Italy nudged back into the lead when Scotland went offside under pressure and Garbisi banged over another three-pointer but it was the Scots, who beat Italy 17-0 in the Six Nations earlier in the year, who finished the stronger.
Lock Cummings ploughed over from close range to give them the lead before Turner completed the win with the Scots' fourth try three minutes from time.
© 2020 AFP