ROME: Centre Chris Harris scored a brace of tries as Scotland edged to a 33-22 bonus-point victory over Italy in their Six Nations encounter at the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday (Mar 12), inflicting a 36th successive defeat in the competition on their hosts.
Centre Sam Johnson, wing Darcy Graham and fullback Stuart Hogg also crossed for tries as Scotland came out on top in a game that was more of a street fight than an arm wrestle, with both teams playing some loose rugby compounded by errors.
Italy had managed only a single try in the Six Nations coming into the game, but got three in Rome as scrumhalf Callum Braley and debutant Ange Capuozzo (two) crossed to score, the latter’s opening effort giving the home side their first second-half points in this year’s competition.
Scotland move into fourth in the table with 10 points from their four games, while Italy remain marooned at the foot of the standings, having yet to break their duck and with a game to come in Wales next weekend.
"We came here to get five points and that's what we achieved," Scotland scrumhalf Ali Price said. "But there is still so much growth though; we were made to work very hard for the scores we got and a lot of those came off turnover.
"There is still a bit to look at in terms of our attack and creating opportunities for ourselves. We dug it out."
Italy had scored only 16 points in their three games before this one, so their haul against Scotland is another sign of their slow, but visible, improvement under coach Kieran Crowley.
It is hard to argue with a five-try win, though the visitors will be unhappy with some aspects of their play, particularly how they gave up possession with unforced errors and the fact that they spent less than three minutes in their opponents’ 22 in the entire match, while Italy spent almost eight in theirs.
It took Scotland almost a quarter of the game to string together some phases and enter the Italy 22, but they did so in quick succession for tries by Johnson and Harris.
Italy were buoyed up by their bright opening and got their reward when wing Pierre Bruno showing excellent feet to stay in the field as he released the ball inside for Braley to score his side’s second try of this season’s Six Nations.
Harris added another as the visitors led 19-10 at halftime, and they claimed their bonus-point try eight minutes into the second period when Finn Russell released Graham, who zig-zagged his way across the tryline.
Hogg cantered in for the visitors’ fifth try with 20 minutes remaining, but the last two scores in the game went to the lively Capuozzo as Italy finished the stronger.
"It is about not switching off," Price said. "We had scoreboard pressure on them and we talk about trying to be relentless in that situation and not giving teams a sniff and keep going for the full 80 (minutes). That is the challenge."