Scotland A atoned for their defeat by Italy last season by achieving victory over the Italians at Netherdale last night in a match played in driving rain on a sodden pitch that ensured this game could never be anything less than an ugly contest.
Inevitably it was a forward struggle won by Scotland, whose skill in the close-quarter battle kept Italy at bay, despite the visitors enjoying the greater amount of pressure in the scoring zone.
Scotland's brisk start had Italy on the ropes but twice in the opening five minutes of play the Scots failed to convert pressure into points, first from a line-out in the corner and then from a scrum five metres from the visitors' line.
Then when Italy were penalised for a fifth time in ten minutes, resulting in the Italian skipper Antonio Pavanello trudging to the sin-bin, Scotland took a quick tap-penalty that gave prop Ryan Grant a try in the corner.
Scotland's high tempo again had the Italians on the defensive but this time the points dividend came in the form of a penalty goal from stand-off David Blair. Italy, however, were gaining in confidence and beginning to put pressure on Scotland with their powerful forward play and when Fraser McKenzie was given a yellow card for coming in from the side of a ruck, the visitors opted to test the Scots with a scrum close to the try line, but they were unable to use the subsequent possession when they played the ball wide.
With McKenzie back on the field, Scotland were restored to full complement, but only for 30 seconds as Scott Lawson became the second Scottish forward to see yellow. Fortunately for Scotland's seven-man scrum, Italy gave away a penalty as a pushover try threatened leaving Scotland going into the break with an 8-0 lead.
Despite being a man short, Scotland's forward pack began the second half in belligerent form, earning a penalty for their efforts, converted into points by Blair. Italy replied with a spell of powerful forward driving play and were prevented from scoring only by a heavy tackle by Johnnie Beattie on flanker Francesco Minto. The Italians did reap a reward, however, with a penalty goal from replacement Tito Tebaldi. The visitors were building a further head of steam and from a penalty kick to the corner, Italy looked menacing as they drove the subsequent line-out. Scotland defended well but a minute later suffered another sin-binning, this time Geoff Cross the man incurring the displeasure of Monsieur Reynal.
Again Italy laid siege on the Scotland line, but were denied a score when a Scotland hand managed to get under the ball as the Italian forwards piled over. From the ensuing scrum, the visitors again tried to force their way over but this time Ryan Grant managed to pirate the ball and relieve pressure for the Scots, who wound down of the clock on their way to a forgettable victory.
Scorers – Scotland A: Tries Ryan Grant. Pens Blair. Italy A: Pens Tebaldi
Scotland A: J Cuthbert (Bath); L Jones (Edinburgh), A Grove (Worcester Warriors), J Houston (Edinburgh), S Danielli (Ulster); D Blair (Edinburgh), G Laidlaw (Edinburgh, capt); R Grant (Glasgow Warriors), S Lawson (Gloucester), G Cross (Edinburgh), T Ryder (Saracens), F McKenzie (Edinburgh), S McInally (Edinburgh), A MacDonald (Edinburgh), J Beattie (Glasgow Warriors). Subs: S Lawrie (Doncaster Knights) for Lawson 67, K Traynor (Edinburgh) for Beattie (55-65), C Hamilton (Edinburgh) for McKenzie (73), Roddy Grant (Edinburgh) for MacDonald (67), C Gregor (Glasgow Warriors), B Cairns (Edinburgh), H O'Hare (Glasgow Warriors) for Danielli (63)
Italy A: P Buso; G Toniolatt, A Pratichetti, M Pratichetti, M Sepe; R Bochino, F Semenzato; M Rizzo, F Sbaraglin, L Cittadini, J Furno, M Bortolami, L Petillo, F Minto, A Pavanaello. Subs: Manici, A De Marchi for Cittadini (67), Gonzalo Padro for Minto (69) , Nicola Belardo , Tito Tebaldi for Semenzato (47), G Pavan for Sepe (70), A Marcato for Bocchino (45)...