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SIX NATIONS

Scotland end victory drought with Six Nations Italy win

The Scots ended a nine-game winless streak in the Six Nations with a 36-20 win over Italy in Rome on Saturday. 

Scotland end victory drought with Six Nations Italy win
Alessandra Tarantino AP

Greig Laidlaw hit 21 points with the boot in a man-of-the-match performance as Scotland ended a nine-game winless streak in the Six Nations with a 36-20 win over Italy in Rome on Saturday. After narrow defeats to England (15-9) and Wales (27-23), Scotland were under pressure to end their drought in a match billed as the wooden spoon decider.

A pair of tries, courtesy of John Barclay and John Hardie, had Scotland in the driving seat just after the quarter-hour and the visitors finished the opening period 17-10 to the good.

But in Italy's final tournament outing at the Stadio Olimpico, it took a determined defensive display from the visitors as the Azzurri launched an ultimately futile comeback during a 10-minute period that saw Finn Russell sin-binned for hands in the ruck before Tommy Seymour ran in a late try at the death.

Scotland had dominated at the scrum and lineouts and Laidlaw said he "could see it in the boys' eyes we were going to win today". But he admitted it took a concerted Scottish defensive effort to keep Italy at bay.

"Our scrum was absolutely fantastic, but the character we showed when we were defending our line ... 15 of us digging in, and that's what probably got us the win," said Laidlaw. "It's a significant win. Winning's what it's all about. We understand that, and for some of the younger players who've been on a tough run, I'm just so happy for them as well. We've won this game, we deserved to win it. Now we have to understand how we won it and move on to the next game."

It has left Italy the likely recipients of the wooden spoon, claimed by Scotland last year after their shock defeat to Italy at Murrayfield. But Azzurri captain Sergio Parisse said the visitors were worthy of the win.

"The scoreline is maybe a little generous to the Scots considering what we put into the game, especially in the second half," said Parisse. "But we can't take anything from Scotland. They were very good in the opening minutes and although we came back into it, we gave them far too much in the opening half."

Fly-half Kelly Haimona, making his first start of the tournament in the absence of Carlo Canna, had the hosts 3-0 ahead with a 44-metre penalty on eight minutes but it merely lit the Scottish fuse.

Scotland built on their promising start to take a 17-10 lead into the dressing room after enterprising Haimona offloaded to Leonardo Ghiraldini as he hit the turf yards from the tryline on the half hour, then fired over a tricky conversion.

Laidlaw made amends for a missed penalty seconds before half-time minutes after the restart after Italy had collapsed the scrum. But Scotland endured a nervous few minutes as Italy, playing to advantage amid an impending penalty call, had the Scots' defence at their limit before fumbling the ball near the tryline.

From only a few metres out, Haimona hit his second penalty to reduce arrears to 13-20. Hopes of an Italian revival were kept in check by Laidlaw's third penalty eight minutes after the restart.

Italy could have turned the game around soon after Seymour came down hard from a mid-air challenge with Haimona.

Michele Campagnaro launched the charge down the left but Gori fumbled a pass as he crossed into the 22. Italy changed their entire front row, veteran prop Martin Castrogiovanni claiming his 118th cap in the process to keep pace with Parisse. It proved a judicious move by Brunel, who saw his men push hard to capitalise on Russell's yellow card.

Marco Fuser eventually bundled over for Italy's second try, given after video analysis, with Haimona hitting the conversion to reduce the arrears to six points.

Laidlaw restored faith with his fifth penalty but the visitors endured a nervous period of Italian pressure as Russell paid the price.

Scotland won a penalty minutes later which allowed them to boot upfield and the ball stayed there for the remainder until Seymour sneaked in at the right corner from Stuart Hogg's offload to wrap up an encouraging win.