What’s hot and what’s not from Italy’s 2016 Six Nations encounter with Scotland at the Stadio Olimpico
Scotland finally exorcised their Six Nations demons, ending a losing streak of nine games in the competition by defeating Italy 36-20 at the Stadio Olimpico. They scored three tries in doing so, and this is their biggest ever points tally in the Six Nations, and their biggest haul since Paris in ’99. when they also amassed 36 points.
Now the monkey is off the back, Scotland will hope to kick on in this competition. As for Italy, despite playing hard-out, defiant rugby and scored two good tries, they take another loss in this tournament and stare down the barrel of a whitewash as they contemplate two away games, the first in Ireland and the second in Wales.
Entertainment value – This game was everything Wales versus France the night before was not. Namely, it was good fun. Scotland looked dangerous with so many of their attacks, playing with an aesthetically pleasing rhythm while Italy staged plunging ripostes, bringing the Roman crowd to their feet with the odd stunning break. When it wants to, the Six Nations can be open and delightful.
Parisse power – Okay, it’s a bit of a cliché singling out Parisse. But we may not see him for much longer. And he was bossy and demanding; carrying hard ball whenever he liked, slinging big cut-out passes, catching kicks above his head and running on. He dragged Italy kicking and screaming towards a comforting final points tally.
Gray matters – We saw what Scotland have always wanted from their second-row pairing: Jonny Gray hits the rucks and shunts the scrums while Richie shows up in flashpoints, grabbing everyone’s attention. For every stolen lineout by Richie there was an ugly job done by Jonny at the next ruck.
Dead-eyed skipper – Greig Laidlaw showed that he is not a slow player, just that he needs front-foot ball to throw the passes his team need. However, it was Laidlaw’s reliable boot – which ended the day with three conversions and five penalties – that earned him the Man of the Match award. His was a captain’s knock.
Scotland’s discipline – Two yellow cards came in silly positions – Finn Russell leant over a ruck to slow ball metres from his own line while WP Nel extended an arm to knock down a pass around the halfway when an interception was never going to happen – hurt Scotland. People talk of composure on the ball, but off the ball the Scots need to chill out a little.
One-sided scrums – Fairly early, referee Jaco Peyper decided Scotland were the stronger scrum. Whether or not that is true the fact remains that whenever there was a knock-on it was probable that Scotland could expect some leeway from the officials in the resulting set-piece.
Italy’s record – Parisse threw a mini strop in the second half as, with his team beating down the door a few metres out and Peyper awarding advantage, a team-mate stood too flat and got in the way of the No 8’s pass. It was a little vignette that probably sums up Italy in the Six Nations: they have talented leaders who get frustrated with having to suffer so many defeats. Indeed it looks incredibly likely that soon-to-depart head coach Jacques Brunel will finish his reign with a five losses.
75 – The percentage of lineouts Italy won. You cannot win games of rugby when one in four lineouts are a failure.
17 – the number of tackles that both Jonny Gray and John Hardie made.
8 – the number of penalties amassed over 80 minutes by Italy’s front row.
Italy: D Odiete; L Sarto, M Campagnaro, G Garcia (A Pratichetti 75), M Bellini; K Haimona (E Padovani 72), E Gori (G Palazanni 79); A Lovotti (M Zanusso 58), L Ghiraldini (D Giazzon 58), L Cittadini (M Castrogiovanni 58), M Fuser, J Furno (V Bernabo 36), F Minto (D Van Schalkwyk 67), A Zanni, S Parisse.
Try: Ghiraldini, Fuser. Con: Haimona. Pens: Haimona 2.
Scotland: S Hogg; T Seymour, M Bennett (P Horne 63), D Taylor, T Visser (S Lamont 72); F Russell, G Laidlaw; A Dickinson, R Ford (S McInally 63), WP Nel, R Gray (T Swinson 79), J Gray, J Barclay (M Low 79), J Hardie, R Wilson (J Strauss 67).
Try: Barclay, Hardie, Seymour. Con: Laidlaw 3. Pen: Laidlaw 5.
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Attendance: 67, 721
Man of the Match: Greig Laidlaw
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