Scotland: (24) 52
Tries: Cherry 2, Van der Merwe 2, Graham, Jones, Steele, Johnson Con: Hogg 6
Italy: (10) 10
Try: Bigi Con: Garbisi Pen: Garbisi

Scotland ran in eight tries as they dispatched a limp Italy at Murrayfield and returned to winning ways in the Six Nations.

Hooker Dave Cherry and wing Duhan van der Merwe both scored twice, with Darcy Graham and Huw Jones running in first-half scores.

Scott Steele and Sam Johnson also scored as Italy’s indiscipline brought two yellow cards after the break.

Scotland could still salvage second place from their Six Nations campaign.

However, it would require a bonus point in the rearranged trip to France – a far tougher assignment – and other results to go their way.

Several of coach Gregor Townsend’s rejigged line-up took the opportunity to shine.

Centre Jones – making his first start in more than a year – looked sharp, while Cherry – preferred to George Turner – was precise at a line-out that misfired in defeat by Ireland.

Whatever positives, however, come with the caveat that they came against an Italy side who were vastly over-matched for the fifth round in succession.

Hogg given armchair ride

Van der Merwe scored his fifth and sixth tries in nine Test appearances for Scotland
Van der Merwe scored his fifth and sixth tries in nine Test appearances for Scotland

The most eye-catching Scotland selection was captain Stuart Hogg taking on starting fly-half duties for the first time in 84 Tests.

With the injured Finn Russell working as a waterboy, Hogg pulled the strings in an understated way in the 54 minutes before replacement Jaco van der Walt took over stand-off duties.

In truth, Hogg did not have to do much to unlock Italy’s defence. He simply shipped on the feast of fast, front-foot ball and let Jones and Johnson carve into space.

Van der Merwe’s impressive season continued with another bustling performance, while Hamish Watson, another British and Irish Lions contender, showed physicality and deft hands in an all-court performance.

Hogg’s through-the-legs pass that very nearly put Van der Merwe into the corner summed up Scotland’s spirit as game meandered to a finish, long over as a contest, in the second half.

The only thing left by the end was the record books as Scotland piled on to claim their biggest winning margin in Six Nations history.

Italy’s eternal wait goes on

Italy lose to Scotland
Italy have not won a Six Nations game since 2015

It started well for Italy. The pack won a penalty at the first scrum. Fly-half Paolo Garbisi provided a platform with a bold touch-finder. Captain Luca Bigi bullocked over for the first try after five minutes.

Seven of Italy’s 12 Six Nations wins since 2000 have come against Scotland, including their most recent back in 2015.

However, since then they have recorded 31 straight defeats in the tournament. Any hopes the visitors had of ending that miserable run disintegrated as poor individual defence and repeated indiscipline undermined occasional promising passages of play.

Too slow to advance in defence. Too inaccurate in the tackle. Scotland’s backline made yards easily even before Federico Mori was shown yellow for a late shoulder shot on Johnson midway through the first half.

Italy’s Sebastian Negri and Monty Ioane both followed him to the sin bin in the second half and back row Michele Lamaro was fortunate that his shoulder to the head of Jamie Ritchie was judged to be a penalty when others have seen red for similar.

This campaign has been a chastening christening for Italy’s promising generation. They have conceded more tries (34) and more points (239), and registered the worst points difference (-184), than in 21 previous Six Nations tournaments.

Time, and surely many more defeats, will prove whether the likes of Garbisi, Lamaro and scrum-half Stephen Varney can restore the team to competitiveness at this level.

Line-ups

Scotland: 15-Sean Maitland, 14-Darcy Graham, 13-Huw Jones, 12-Sam Johnson, 11-Duhan van der Merwe, 10-Stuart Hogg (capt), 9-Scott Steele; 1-Rory Sutherland, 2-David Cherry, 3-Zander Fagerson, 4-Sam Skinner, 5-Grant Gilchrist, 6-Jamie Ritchie, 7-Hamish Watson, 8-Matt Fagerson

Replacements: 16-George Turner, 17. Jamie Bhatti, 18. Simon Berghan, 19. Alex Craig, 20. Nick Haining, 21. Ali Price, 22. Jaco van der Walt, 23. Chris Harris

Italy: 15-Edoardo Padovani, 14-Mattia Bellini, 13-Juan Ignacio Brex, 12-Federico Mori, 11-Montanna Ioane, 10-Paolo Garbisi, 9-Stephen Varney; 1-Danilo Fischetti, 2-Luca Bigi (capt), 3-Marco Riccioni, 4-Niccolo Cannone, 5-Federico Ruzza, 6-Sebastian Negri, 7-Johan Meyer, 8-Michele Lamaro

Replacements: 16-Gianmarco Lucchesi, 17-Andrea Lovotti, 18- Giosue Zilocchi, 19-Riccardo Favretto, 20-Maxime Mbanda, 21-Marcello Violi, 22-Carlo Canna, 23-Marco Zanon

Referee: Pascal Gauzere (France)

Touch judges: Karl Dickson (England) & Ben Whitehouse (Wales)

TMO: Alex Ruiz (France)



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