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Italy 0-17 Scotland: Lacklustre Scots struggle to Six Nations win

Scotland's full back Stuart Hogg (C) celebrates after scoring a try during the Six Nations international rugby union match between Italy and Scotland at the Olympic stadium in Rome on February 22, 2020.
Image: Stuart Hogg scored Scotland's only points of the first half

Stuart Hogg helped relieve some of the pressure on coach Gregor Townsend as his stunning solo try sent Scotland on their way to a 17-0 win over Italy.

The new skipper went some way towards atoning for his blunders against Ireland and England as his 20th Test touchdown helped Scotland register their first Six Nations win since February 2019.

Townsend's side were again guilty of failing to take their chances but second-half tries from Chris Harris and Adam Hastings gave their head coach some respite after a bruising tournament overshadowed by the Finn Russell row.

Having failed to register a try in either of their two opening defeats despite having more than enough chances, the travelling Tartan Army must have feared their side were set for a fresh bout of white-line fever as another chance went begging eight minutes in.

Chris Harris scores Scotland's second try against Italy
Image: Chris Harris holds off two defenders to score Scotland's second try

A monster 60-yard kick from Hogg forced a line-out deep into the Azzurri's 22 but while the hosts were caught out by Stuart McInally's long throw for Sam Johnson, they were back in position to hold up Hogg before a knock-on from Magnus Bradbury saw the Scots frustrated yet again.

Scotland's scrum was working well and a big shunt should have been rewarded with an easy three points. Adam Hastings, however, shanked a simple kick almost in front of the sticks.

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It was a sloppy start from Townsend's team and it almost became a disastrous one as another poor swipe of Hastings' boot released Mattia Bellini. The Zebre wing danced past three tackles before storming upfield, with Jayden Hayward only prevented from scoring by Hogg's last-ditch tackle.

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Stuart Hogg of Scotland goes over to score his sides first try during the 2020 Guinness Six Nations match between Italy and Scotland at Stadio Olimpico on February 22, 2020 in Rome
Image: Hogg scores his side's first try

But it was Scotland who at last found a breakthrough in the 23rd minute.

Blair Kinghorn put Matteo Minozzi under pressure with a well-placed kick and he could only respond by firing straight at Jamie Ritchie in centrefield. The flanker handed off to Hogg and the skipper did the rest, rampaging through a gap in the hosts' line before striding away from Hayden to score a sensational try.

Hastings missed the conversion and his half-back partner Ali Price then had a second try ruled out by the TMO due to a forward pass in the build-up by Hamish Watson.

Tommaso Allan then fired a late penalty against the post as Italy wasted a chance to cut Scotland's 5-0 lead before the break.

Scotland were still being wasteful but they did not lose heart and got their reward in the 47th minute.

Adam Hastings runs through for his try against Italy
Image: Adam Hastings strolls over for Scotland's third try

There were times during 17 phases of sheer grunt on the Italian line where Italy's resistance looked like it might pay off but in the end there was just enough space for Harris to squeeze through wide on the right for the second. Again Hastings failed to convert.

Italy had to play out the final stages a man light after Federico Zani was sin-binned for a tip-tackle on Grant Gilchrist.

And with tiring legs, they could do nothing as Hastings pick-pocketed a ruck before cantering in under the posts to put the seal on a much-needed win.

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