John Hardie admits a weight has been lifted from Scotland’s shoulders after claiming their first RBS 6 Nations victory in two years.
And now the Edinburgh flanker is targeting two more wins to ensure Vern Cotter’s men finish this year’s Championship on a high.
Hopefully now that the pressure is off a bit, we can really express ourselves in our last two games against France and Ireland.John Hardie
The kilted Kiwi scored the Scots’ second try in their 36-20 victory over Italy in Rome on Saturday.
That result halted a nine-game run of defeats in the tournament and Hardie admits his team breathed a huge sigh of relief as the final whistle blew in the Eternal City.
He said: “We were never too far away. We were just one or two performances away from opening this Six Nations up.
“We tried to stay positive. We knew we were close to a big display and it is great to get that pressure off our shoulders.
“I’m really proud of how the boys did on Saturday. The defence was solid and the attack was really good too. I loved it.
“Hopefully now that the pressure is off a bit, we can really express ourselves in our last two games against France and Ireland.
“I think we can now look to end on a couple of really good wins. We’re good enough to win these next two games and really push on.
“If we do that I will be really happy with how we are progressing as a team.”
Scotland struck early against the Azzurri as John Barclay and Hardie touched down inside the opening 17 minutes.
Italy stormed back at the Stadio Olimpico and tries from Leonardo Ghiraldini and Marco Fuser had the Dark Blues worrying.
But thanks to skipper Greig Laidlaw’s trusty boot and Tommy Seymour’s score two minutes from time, they managed to hold on for the all-important triumph.
Emotions ran high in the closing stages but Hardie was impressed with how his team was marshalled by their captain.
“Tempers flared a bit in the last 10 minutes but that’s rugby,” said the forward. “It was a heated game and Italy were at home - they were always going to make it hard.
“But we came and weathered the storm and ended up running away with it.
“Greig’s leadership in those final stages was so important. I came into this environment last year and already I’ve built up so much respect for the guy.
“He has been so good to me and I’ve really enjoyed playing under him. I listen to everything he says.”
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