Scotland got back to winning ways as they claimed a 29-0 bonus-point win over Italy at Murrayfield.
The Scots’ 61-21 defeat by England last weekend brought them crashing down to earth after their tails were up with wins against Ireland and Wales.
Then tries from Finn Russell, Matt Scott, Tim Visser and Tommy Seymour mean the Dark Blues finish a Six Nations campaign with three wins for the first time since 2006.
The result implies that they may still complete second behind England but will have to wait for the results of the two remaining fixtures – which would be their best finish since winning the last edition of the Five Nations back in 1999.
The win was a perfect send-off for Scotland’s head coach Vern Cotter, who will vacate his role as Scotland coach and will be replaced by Gregor Townsend.
Scotland were 15-0 up and under the cosh in the second half with John Barclay in the sin-bin. A try for Italy would have brought the Azzurri right back into the game. However, an enormous defensive effort from the Scots denied Italy with Stuart Hogg, often maligned for his defence, putting in a try-saving tackle to hold Angelo Esposito. A few minutes later, Scotland ventured into the Italy territory for the first time in that half and came away with a seven-pointer.
Scotland soaked up the usual Italy pressure and made the most of their possibilities with some fine skills and the ability to attack space. Their forwards also really stood out – both at the scrum and in the breakdown where they looked to really dominate the Italians. Confidence was high in the Scotland team and showed in defence when they were under the cosh for a good 10 minutes but held the visitors out.
Italy are low in confidence and it showed in everything they did. Carlo Canna had a shocking day with the boot as he missed three relatively straight forward shots at goal. Italy’s set-piece was also a mess – they were completely dominated at the scrum and could not win their own lineout. They also rushed their attack and should have scored when Scotland were down to 14 men.
Scotland coach Vern Cotter said: “I’m very pleased, coming from a game at Twickenham that didn’t fall our way, to keep a team try-less.”
“The three wins is great. It’s a reflection of the work these guys put in. Those records are nice. It was nice to be able to finish at home with the bonus point. It wasn’t always perfect, but we got there in the end. Job done.”
“I am not going to talk about legacies. I was a supporter before I came here and I’ll be a supporter now that we are moving on.”
“But it wasn’t just me. Everyone has worked hard in this. I have great coaches around me, good people. It’s just good to work with people and strive to move forward and get better. That is all we have done and now these guys, we’ll look forward to seeing them put the jersey on and get out there and play again.”.