A single try proved enough for Italy to snatch their first Six Nations victory in two years with a 16-12 victory over Scotland in Rome.
A single try proved enough for Italy to snatch their first Six Nations victory in two years with a 16-12 victory over Scotland at Stadio Flaminio.
It wasn't pretty. Not by a long way. But as the saying goes, a metre is as good as a mile and two points for a win is all that counts.
Replacement scrum-half Pablo Canavosio's effort was the only try of an evenly-contested and hard-fought game that failed to alight imaginations – except if you're Italian of course.
All the talk mid-week was about the battle between the two packs. And true to form that's exactly what we got as Italy alternated their slow poison with little chips for the wings to chase.
Any plans Scotland might have had of testing Italy out wide were thwarted by the home wings coming up into the Scottish line in defence as the visitors failed to suck sufficient numbers in through phase play.
Scotland's most dangerous weapon proved to be Dan Parks' boot – both from the tee and out of hand.
The much-vaunted battle at scrum time was an evenly contested affair though. While Scotland would win a penalty from the first set piece, Italy would be first to gain points from the second when Salvatore Perugini got under Euan Murray and the Scotland tighthead popped up.
Mirco Bergamasco duly stepped forward and opened the scoring and would double Italy's lead near the quarter-hour mark with a second penalty when Johnnie Beattie was adjudged offside.
If the first quarter belonged mainly to the hosts, Scotland would have the better of the second twenty minutes with Parks providing six points from the kicking tee.
The visitors would have been frustrated not to have lead at the break after a sustained period of pressure to the end the half but Parks sent his third attempt at goal wide after Josh Sole made sure Scotland would not score by diving on the ball from an offside position.
Parks' miss meant the teams would head for the changing rooms at 6-all.
The second half started in similar fashion to the first, with a Mirco Bergamasco penalty putting Italy back in the lead.
Scotland would be first to cross the whitewash soon afterward but with the TMO was unable to see the ball being grounded under the pile of bodies.
Scotland would leave Italy territory with three points thanks to a Parks drop goal, but it left a bitter taste in the mouth as it was disappointing to see the visitors not go for the jugular after a long period of pressure.
Another Parks penalty put Scotland back in front entering the last quarter but Italy finally broke the deadlock with fifteen minutes left on the clock when Gonzalo Canale made a rare line break before offloading on the ground to Canavosio, who finished under the posts.
Bergamasco's conversion gave the Azzurri a vital four-point lead.
Scotland came alive in the last ten minutes only to see the TMO deny them again when Kelly Brown's drive ended inches short of the try line.
From then Italy gave a master class in how to run the clock down, keeping it tight and not allowing Scotland anywhere near the ball.
Man of the match: A tough one to call but Dan Parks was probably the most influential player in the game.
Moment of the match: There could only be one – it was anyone's game until Canale broke clear to create Canavosio's try.
Villain of the match: Plenty of needle – but no one threw any real punches.
Con: Mi. Bergamasco
Pens:Mi. Bergamasco 2
Pens: Parks 3
Italy: 15 Luke McLean, 14 Andrea Masi, 13 Gonzalo Canale, 12 Gonzalo Garcia, 11 Mirco Bergamasco, 10 Craig Gower, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Alessandro Zanni, 7 Mauro Bergamasco, 6 Josh Sole, 5 Marco Bortolami, 4 Quintin Geldenhuys, 3 Martin Castrogiovanni, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini (captain), 1 Salvatore Perugini.
Replacements: 16 Fabio Ongaro, 17 Matias Aguero, 18 Carlo Antonio Del Fava, 19 Paul Derbyshire, 20 Pablo Canavosio, 21 Riccardo Bocchino, 22 Kaine Roberston.
Scotland: 15 Hugo Southwell, 14 Simon Danielli, 13 Max Evans, 12 Graeme Morrison, 11 Sean Lamont, 10 Dan Parks, 9 Chris Cusiter (capt), 8 Johnnie Beattie, 7 John Barclay, 6 Kelly Brown, 5 Al Kellock, 4 Jim Hamilton, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Allan Jacobsen.
Replacements: 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Alasdair Dickinson, 18 Nathan Hines, 19 Al Strokosch, 20 Mike Blair, 21 Phil Godman, 22 Nick De Luca.
Venue: Stadio FlaminioReferee: Dave Pearson (England)
Assistant referees: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland), Tim Hayes (Wales)
Television match official: Nigel Whitehouse (Wales)
Assessor: Jim Fleming (Scotland)