Six Nations: Five takeaways from Scotland v Italy as Duhan van der Merwe mixes brute force with finesse

Adam Kyriacou
Duhan van der Merwe

Following a 26-14 victory for Scotland over Italy in their Six Nations fixture, here’s our five takeaways from the game at Murrayfield on Saturday.

A profitable day for Blair Kinghorn

Took this opportunity at fly-half with both hands as he finished with three tries, filling the rather large shoes of Finn Russell as Scotland got the maximum.

While the jury remains out on whether Kinghorn is in fact an international 10 or more suited to full-back, he deserves all the praise he gets this weekend as he ended the game with 107 running metres and an individual points haul of 21 points. That’s an outstanding contribution from the versatile Edinburgh back.

Not as elegant as Russell, but Gregor Townsend is clearly a fan of Kinghorn’s, and his ability to seamlessly slot in at either fly-half or full-back is handy.

Duhan van der Merwe in beast mode

What a specimen the hulking wing is. The way Van der Merwe bumps off forwards and backs alike game after game is amazing, and Scotland have one of the most destructive wide men in the business at the moment; of that, there is no doubt. He’s the one that got away from South Africa, but it’s to Scotland’s benefit.

It’s not just the power game that impressed on Saturday, as that finish in the first half was outstanding, as he managed to keep his feet and body in field and ground it before that huge frame hit the ground. Replays confirmed it was a fantastic finish, and he went on to cause Italy more problems as the match wore on.

Unlucky not to get a second try late on as he turned provider for Kinghorn, the wing finishing with 110 running metres, 11 carries and eight broken tackles.

Italy winless but positives to take

The final standings might read played five lost five, but it’s certainly not all doom and gloom for Italy as they have impressed many observers this campaign.

Their schedule began with a tough opening game against France, but they more than held their own as they picked up a losing bonus point for their efforts. While defeats followed against England, Ireland and Wales, they were far from walkovers like in previous years, as they’ve built on last year’s major improvements.

Scotland was the last assignment, and while the Azzurri went down to a 26-14 defeat, it was ultimately small margins that cost them, as the final pass and silly errors led to scoring opportunities. Defensively they were solid throughout at Murrayfield as Scotland were made to work incredibly hard for this victory.

Scotland should have taken the points

Scotland made their intentions clear early in the game as they turned down kickable points and instead went for tries. While it initially bore fruit, it didn’t last as Italy’s improved defence limited Scotland’s scoring and ultimately contributed to the gritty Azzurri pushing them right until the final whistle at Murrayfield.

Maybe the occasion – the final Six Nations game with little riding on it except a third-place finish – played a part in the decision-making, but Scotland should have been aware that Italy are no longer the competition’s pushover side. It almost came back to bite them, and they were lucky to win, let alone in a maximum.

Six Nations progress for Scotland

Yes, it was nip and tuck whether they would come out on top on Saturday, but in the grand scheme of things, when looking at the table, the Scots can be delighted with their performance this Championship. Three wins and just two defeats – to the world number one and two sides – means they finish up in third position.

A third-place spot is achieved for the first time since 2018, and it’s also the first time since that year they’ve won three of their five matches, so Townsend will be pleased. All the building blocks seem in place for a decent Rugby World Cup showing, with consistency in performance in those tougher games clear to see.

READ MORE: Six Nations: Blair Kinghorn hat-trick helps Scotland edge past battling Italy