Following a thrilling 29-27 victory for Scotland over Italy in the Six Nations, here’s our five takeaways from the game at the Stadio Olimpico.
Italy fixed their first-half woes: The Azzurri have struggled getting out of the blocks in recent Six Nations games but they had no such trouble on Saturday as they excelled in the first-half. They were full value for their 17-12 lead at the break as there was real fire in their play, which was backed up with a clear gameplan and direction from Tommaso Allan at 10. They’ll be devastated to lose this one.
Stuart Hogg pulled Scotland back into game: The Scots were 17-5 down after 22 minutes but managed to haul themselves back into the match, thanks largely to Hogg’s measured boot. Taking over the touch-finders from Finn Russell, who had been inconsistent in that area in recent games, Hogg was pinpoint and put his pack in the right areas. He topped it off with a vital try in the 72nd minute, showing his class when it mattered.
Tommaso Allan superb in first-half: Some real quality on show from the former Scotland U20 fly-half. He added to that first-half showing with a second try soon after the interval and also what was almost the match-winning penalty late on. Voted the official man-of-the-match despite being on the losing side and proved he is very much a long-term option at 10 for the Azzurri alongside scrum-half Marcello Violi.
Italy have their long-term flankers: Jake Polledri and Sebastian Negri were excellent in Rome, putting in tireless efforts, with Negri’s physicality and Polledri’s workrate noticeable from the outset. To win a back-row battle against a Scottish trio that had been lauded in recent games shows their quality and to outshine the master Sergio Parisse also illustrates how well they did. Some debut from Polledri.
Greig Laidlaw the saviour again: When the pressure’s on rarely does Laidlaw not come up with the goods for Scotland. Like the majority of his team-mates he did not have his best game but when tasked with landing a tough, high-pressure penalty in the 79th minute, few doubted the Clermont scrum-half. He also set up two tries for his side to cap another calm performance at the base and later at fly-half.