Laid­law’s last-gasp win­ner thwarts brave Ital­ian ef­fort

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - RUGBY - ANDY NEW­PORT

Italy Scot­land

GREIG LAID­LAW’S last-gasp penalty en­sured Scot­land avoided a fi­nal-day slip-up in Rome. Vic­tory ended the Dark Blues’ two-year wait for a Six Na­tions away win and en­sured that a cam­paign that started off with so much ex­pec­ta­tion did not fin­ish with a whim­per.

Hav­ing suf­fered de­feat in Cardiff and Dublin, the Scots were un­der pres­sure to prove they could come up with the goods on for­eign soil. And they just about man­aged it as Fraser Brown, John Bar­clay, Sean Mait­land and Stu­art Hogg all crossed over be­fore Laid­law’s kick sealed their first bonus-point win. Yet the hosts pushed them close with Tom­maso Al­lan scor­ing twice ei­ther side of Mat­teo Mi­nozzi’s touch­down.

De­feat means Italy have now equalled France’s 1911-1920 record of 17 straight cham­pi­onship losses — while skip­per Ser­gio Parisse notched up his 100th Test de­feat. Over 5,000 Scot­land fans had caused grid­lock on the streets of the Ital­ian cap­i­tal be­fore kick-off as they joined a march in aid of Dod­die Weir’s mo­tor neu­rone dis­ease char­ity. But nei­ther side had much trou­ble cut­ting through the traf­fic on the pitch as they both struck twice in the open­ing half.

Scot­land were first to cross over af­ter nine min­utes as they re­sponded to an early Al­lan penalty. Nick Grigg and Tommy Sey­mour both made ground be­fore Finn Rus­sell snaked to­wards the posts. Hamish Wat­son then spot­ted Brown in a lu­di­crous amount of space for him to fin­ish.

The Az­zurri hit back in stun­ning fash­ion af­ter 14 min­utes. From a line-out drive, they worked the ball in­side for Al­lan, who sold Huw Jones with a cute dummy be­fore scam­per­ing in to dot down. They spot­ted an­other hole in the Scots’ de­fence seven min­utes later when Hogg moved into the de­fen­sive line, al­low­ing Al­lan to drop the ball into the space be­hind with Mi­nozzi beat­ing Wat­son in the footrace to score.

Scot­land re­acted af­ter 25 min­utes as they set up a driv­ing maul 15 yards out. With the Ital­ians creak­ing, wing Sey­mour joined the for­wards as they drove the hosts back as Bar­clay got the ball down.

The Scots had been guilty of three hor­ror mis­takes as they lost in Dublin last week­end and made an­other blun­der as Mait­land dropped the ball as the line came into sight. And there were more er­rors as Italy scored their third try just four min­utes into the sec­ond half.

Zan­der Fager­son dropped the ball on his first carry af­ter com­ing on at half-time. Ryan Wil­son should then have got to grips with Jake Polledri as the big flanker coun­tered but let him slip through as Al­lan then darted in for his sec­ond try. Scot­land needed a spark and got it as play­maker Rus­sell limped off. He was re­placed by scrumhalf Ali Price as Laid­law shifted to 10 but the change gave Scot­land fresh tempo, and Mait­land ran in af­ter 62 min­utes to cut the deficit to five. And some ex­cep­tional work by the for­wards set up their fourth as an­other 30-yard li­ne­out drive helped Laid­law slot in Hogg to score.

Laid­law’s con­ver­sion put Scot­land back in front — but Italy im­me­di­ately re­gained the lead with an Al­lan penalty Yet there was no re­turn of the Scots’ travel sick­ness as Laid­law nailed a last-minute penalty. Scor­ers — Italy: Al­lan (2), Mi­nozzi tries; Al­lan 3 cons, 2 pens. Scot­land: Brown, Bar­clay, Mait­land, Hogg tries; Laid­law 3 cons, 1 pen.

Italy: Mi­nozzi; Ben­venuti (Hay­ward 59), Bisegni, Castello (Canna 74), Bellini; Al­lan, Vi­oli (Palaz­zani 67); Lovotti (Quaglio 59), Ghi­ral­dini (Fabi­ani 77), Fer­rari, Zanni (Steyn 53), Budd, Ne­gri, Polledri (Li­cata 67), Parisse (capt). Scot­land: Hogg; Sey­mour, Jones (Horne 53), Grigg, Mait­land; Rus­sell (Price 54), Laid­law; Reid (Bhatti 40), Brown (McI­nally 40), Nel (Fager­son 40), Swin­son (Gray J Gray, Bar­clay (capt), Wat­son, Wil­son (Den­ton 67). Ref­eree: P Gauzere (France) 53),

Scot­land’s Stu­art Hogg scores his side’s fourth try in the win over Italy yes­ter­day. Photo: Paolo Bruno

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