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Azzurri win lights up Rome
Italy heap yet more misery on beleagured Scots
The streets of Rome were swathed in blue on Saturday after Italy pulled off a sensational Six Nations victory over Scotland at the Stadio Flaminio.
A 66th minute try by replacement scrum-half Pablo Canavosio, plus 11 points from the boot of Mirco Bergamasco, sealed a memorable 16-12 win for the Azzurri in front of their home fans.
Scotland, who had arrived hoping to exorcise the ghosts of their capitulation to Wales, instead leave the Eternal City with their Six Nations campaign in tatters and their pride battered and bruised.
It was by no means beautiful rugby from either side, but that will not matter to Nick Mallett's men, not today at least, as they savour the rare taste of Six Nations success.
The Italians led for much of the game, after Bergamasco put his side in front on nine minutes with a straightforward penalty to the right of the posts.
Four minutes later he extended the lead to 6-0 when the Scots were caught right in front of their posts with hands in at the ruck.
Scotland did not put their first points on the board until the 20th minute, Dan Parks slotting between the sticks after prop Martin Castrogiovanni was blown up for tackling from offside.
And when Jim Hamilton was hampered in the air at the line out on the 31-minute mark, the fly-half pulled the visitors level with a fine effort from wide out on the left.
Some slick passing in the backs saw number eight Johnnie Beattie break down the right in the 36th minute only to be brought down short of the Italian line.
But, with three minutes to go before the break, and the Scots looking for quick ball just eight yards out, Josh Sole came in from the side to kill the ball.
Scotland were clearly unhappy when referee Dave Pearson failed to send the flanker to the sin bin and then denied the visitors the opportunity to take a quick penalty.
And after Parks saw his touchline penalty kick drift wide of the uprights they must surely have felt aggrieved to end the half with the scores tied.
Three minutes after the restart Bergamasco booted his side back into the lead when Graeme Morrison was pinged for not rolling away in the tackle.
Almost immediately though, a powerful run from Beattie saw the visitors surge into the Italian 22, and when Allan Jacobsen collected the loose ball and barged over it looked like the try had finally come.
But, following a lengthy deliberation, the video ref said no after deciding that the prop had been held up.
Parks levelled the scores again with a cheeky drop-goal on 49 minutes, and 13 minutes later took his side into the lead for the fist time with a penalty to take the score to 9-12.
The lead was short lived though when, just four minutes later, Canale broke up the middle before feeding Canavosio with a quite brilliant offload as he was brought down 10 yards out.
The replacement scrum-half jinked his way through a static Scottish defence to dive in under the posts and send the Azzurri faithful delirious.
Bergamasco added the extras to take the Italians into a 16-12 lead and leave a stunned Scotland staring down the barrel of another desperately disappointing defeat.
To rub salt in the wound with just eight minutes to go, Jacobsen was again adjudged to have been held up by the video ref when he crashed over for a second time.
Fly-half Craig Gower tried to extend the Italians' lead on 75 minutes but saw his long range effort from the half way line fall short of the posts.
The Scots increasing desperation began to show as the clock ticked down and more mistakes started creeping into their game.
And with the home side planted firmly in their 22, there was simply no way back for the visitors and only the prospect of a painful post mortem for the ever-frowning Andy Robinson.