Scotland steal a late winner
Scotland steal a late winnerSHARE
Alasdair Strokosch scored a try and Greig Laidlaw kicked a conversion after the full-time hooter to give Scotland a 30-29 win over Italy in Pretoria on Saturday.
The dramatic climax atoned for a lot of scrappy play at Loftus Versfeld between a couple of weary Six Nations championship sides at the end of an 11-month season.
It saw the Scots finish third in this four-nation tournament, with their first win of the series, and leaves the Azzurri rooted in last place.
Scotland camped deep in Italian territory as the clock ticked away and after a 17-phase movement failed to reap any reward, flank Strokosch broke from a ruck and punished slack marking to go over beside the posts.
Captain and scrumhalf Laidlaw converted for a 15-point contribution in a match in which he ended up playing at flyhalf in the latter stages.
Match starts do not get much better than scoring a try after 52 seconds, and that is what Italy did with debutant right wing Leonardo Sarto going over and flyhalf Alberto Di Bernardo converting.
Scotland were level after seven minutes through a try by centre Matt Scott after a break by loose forward David Denton, but some woeful attempts at tackling contributed to the score which Laidlaw converted.
Di Bernardo, who made his Test debut two weeks ago against South Africa at the age of 32, nudged the Azzurri ahead again with a penalty after a Scottish side struggling at the scrums were blown up.
But it took Scotland just two minutes to take the lead for the first time when left-wing Giovanbattista Venditti was dispossessed close to his line and Laidlaw sent left-wing Sean Lamont over for a try and added the conversion.
Laidlaw kicked a penalty and his team had a seven-point advantage midway through the opening half in clear, warm conditions despite coming off second best in the possession and territory battles.
Italy scrummed superbly throughout the three-week tournament and their supremacy in this facet led to a penalty try that Di Bernardo converted after Scotland repeatedly collapsed the set piece.
Laidlaw and Di Bernardo kept perfect goal-kicking records intact with a penalty each before half-time to leave the teams level at 20-20 – a score that pleased Scotland more as they made few incursions into opposition turf.
The battle of the boots continued after the break with Laidlaw landing one before Di Bernardo succeeded twice to give Italy a 26-23 advantage as an untidy match reached the hour mark.
After a bright start to the half by Scotland, Italy regained the ascendancy and had a chance to double their lead only for a Di Bernardo to drift a penalty left for his only miss of the match.
When Di Bernardo was given another chance from an almost identical position, he atoned with a kick between the posts and a six-point lead as the game entered the closing stages.
A rare Scottish visit inside the Italian 22-metre line ended with Laidlaw knocking on when he tried to dive over a pile of bodies and Italy cleared the danger off the resulting scrum.
Man of the match: Sergio Parisse, as is so often the case, was his team's most energetic and productive player. The Italian front row – both those who started and the replacement – deserve mention for their attempt top get Azzurri an edge. Greig Laidlaw had his moments and David Denton did some good things. However, our award goes to Scotland flank Alasdair Strokosch – not only for producing the match-winner, but also for his amazing workrate and never-say-die attitude.
Moment of the match: You can almost take you pick from any one of the numerous scrum penalties earned by Italy. They were all monstrous demolitions of the Scottish pack. However, the Alasdair Strokosch try after the full-time hooter and the Greig Laidlaw conversion must get it. That is a classic match-winner.
Villain of the match: Nothing or nobody really, unless you want to nominate the feeble Scottish scrum. On second thoughts, they deserve it!
Tries: Scott, Lamont, Strokosch
Cons: Laidlaw 3
Pens: Laidlaw 3
Tries: Sarto, Penalty try
Cons: Di Bernardo 2
Pens: Di Bernardo 5
Scotland: 15 Peter Murchie, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Alex Dunbar, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Sean Lamont, 10 Tom Heathcote, 9 Greig Laidlaw (captain), 8 Johnnie Beattie, 7 Alasdair Strokosch, 6 David Denton, 5 Alastair Kellock, 4 Tim Swinson, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Scott Lawson, 1 Alasdair Dickinson.
Replacements: 16 Fraser Brown, 17 Moray Low, 18 Jon Welsh, 19 Grant Gilchrist, 20 Robert Harley, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Duncan Taylor, 23 Tim Visser.
Italy: 15 Andrea Masi, 14 Leonardo Sarto, 13 Luca Morisi, 12 Alberto Sgarbi, 11 Giovanbattista Venditti, 10 Alberto Di Bernardo, 9 Tobias Botes, 8 Sergio Parisse (captain), 7 Robert Barbieri, 6 Joshua Furno, 5 Marco Bortolami, 4 Leandro Cedaro, 3 Martin Castrogiovanni, 2 Davide Giazzon, 1 Matias Aguero.
Replacements: 16 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 17 Alberto De Marchi, 18 Lorenzo Cittadini, 19 Antonio Pavanello, 20 Alessandro Zanni, 21 Alberto Chillon, 22 Gonzalo Canale, 23 Luke McLean.
Referee: Leighton Hodges (Wales)
Assistant referees: Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa), Cobus Wessels (South Africa)
TMO: Deon van Blommestein (South Africa)
AFP & rugby 365