Italy 0 - 17 Scotland: Stuart Hogg scores wonder try as Scots eke out first Six Nations win of 2020 in Rome
Chris Harris added a second touchdown in the second half but those two five pointers looked like being the only scores of the match until a late breakaway and conversion from Adam Hastings put a more pleasing gloss on the scoreline.
Before that it had been a difficult and trying occasion for the young stand-off, who missed an easy penalty and made a number of errors both from hand and with the boot.
After nip and tuck opening few exchanges things sparked into life approaching the ten-minutes mark and what followed completely encapsulated the Scotland campaign up to that point.
After a brilliant Hogg penalty to set up a lineout platform, the attacking strike was penetrating as the skipper and scrum-half Ali Price surged towards the Italian line in search of that first Scottish try of this championship. The forwards took over but back-rower Magnus Bradbury let the ball slip forward a metre out.
A subsequent scrum penalty gave Hastings a routine kicking chance but incredibly he screwed the penalty wide. Forgivable in the storm of the Calcutta Cup a couple of weeks ago but not in these perfect Roman conditions.
Things almost went from bad to worse when Italy right wing Matteo Bellini turned and straightened beautifully deep in his own half to hare down the pitch and offload to full-back Jayden Hayward. The Italians looked to have engineered numbers on the left but Scotland manage to scramble No 8 Braam Steyn into touch.
There was a huge Scottish contingent over for this one as the popularity of the unique Rome Six Nations weekend continues to endure. But it was the passionate home fans who were in full voice heading towards the end of the first quarter.
A Price box kick which drifted out on the full continued the theme before Italy unleashed again, but were penalised for holding on 12 metres from the Scots' line.
Then, in an instant, as it so often does in sport, everything changed with that sublime moment of redemption and brilliance as an end-to-end harum-scarum passage of play was seized by the scruff of the neck by full-back Hogg as he got on the end of some nice Scottish passing to burn the Italian defence and opposite number Hayward to smithereens down the rightt, swooping in the corner for vintage try.
Hastings couldn’t make the touchline conversion.
Scotland cut loose again, down the left this time and Price scorched over but Hamish Watson’s inside pass to Sam Johnson always looked as forward as they come and it was inevitably chalked off by the TMO.
Both sides huffed and puffed for the remainder of the half without cutting through. Italy stand-off Tomasso Allan hit the post with a late penalty to leave the match poised at 5-0 to Scotland heading into the break.
The Scots started the second half on the front foot. There was another spilled ball near the line but Jamie Ritchie had been hit by a crunching tackle after good work by his Edinburgh back-row colleagues Watson and Bradbury.
The second try came in the 46th minute as an accurate set of 17 phases was followed by Harris crashing over right of the Italian posts.
Hastings still couldn’t get the ball through the sticks as the conversion hit one instead this time and the young stand-off, who has been thrust into the pivotal role due to Finn Russell’s well-documented, was then guilty of another moment to forget.
An electric passage almost saw the Azzurri strike back as the visiting playmaker’s initial break saw him fail to make the offload with a certain try glaring. Italy pounced on it and their wing Matteo Minozzi had Scotland briefly tied in knots before excellent defence regrouped to snuff out the threat and win a penalty.
Another Scotland try was tossed away as a slick move, started by sub George Horne, who was part of a quadruple change by Townsend in the 54th minute, forced a turnover. Blair Kinghorn and Harris combined beautifully to stretch the Italians but it ended with Hogg cutting inside and going for glory with two men outside down the right. He was tackled then penalised for not releasing.
Scotland continued to edge to a narrow win and were helped when Italy were reduced to 14 for effectively the rest of the game as sub Federico Zani was sin-binned for a dangerous tackle on replacement lock Grant Gilchrist.
With Italy throwing the kitchen sink at it in the dying seconds, Hastings took his chance to at least make it a happy end to his afternoon.
Job done. A wonder try to savour. But lots to work on as France at home and Wales away remain to complete a championship for Scotland which has flickered into life but remains precariously placed.
SCORERS: SCOTLAND: Tries: Hogg, Harris, Hastings. Con: Hastings
ITALY: J Hayward; M Bellini, L Morisi, C Canna, M Minozzi; T Allan, C Braley; G Biesegeni, A Lovotti L Bigi, G Zilocchi, A Zanni, N Cannone J Polledri, S Negri, B Steyn. Subs: F Zanni for Bigi 59, D Fischetti for Lovotti 58, M Riccioni for Zilocchi 30 and 53, M Lazzaroni for Cannone 67, D Budd for A Zanni 43, G Licata for Negri 43, G Palazzani for Braley 58, G Biesegini.
SCOTLAND: S Hogg, S Maitland, C Harris, S Johnson, B Kinghorn; A Hastings, A Price; R Sutherland, S McInally, Z Fagerson, B Toolis, S Cummings ,J Ritchie, H Watson, M Bradbury. Subs: F Brown for McInally 59, A Dell for Sutherland 54, WP Nel for Fagerson 54, G Gilchrist, for Cummings 65, M Fagerson for Bradbury 54, G Horne for Price 54, R Hutchinson for Harris 59, B McGuigan for Maitland 65.
REFREE: B O'Keefe (Nzl)
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