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Scotland 26 Italy 14: Scotland ride their luck and Blair Kinghorn’s hat-trick to end Six Nations on a high note

Blair Kinghorn strides through for his third try of the match.
Blair Kinghorn strides through for his third try of the match.

Blair Kinghorn’s second hat-trick against Italy in four years lifted Scotland into third place in the Guinness Six Nations, but it was a mighty close-run thing at BT Murrayfield.

Kinghorn twice went over from close range and finished off a length of the field breakout at the death. But it seemed Italy were about to seize their first win over Scotland in 12 attempts.

The Italians looked buried at 19-6 down entering the final half-hour. They rallied manfully with the help of rank Scottish indiscipline to get within five points.

They were pushing hard at the Scottish line in the dying minutes before the Scots broke their hearts going the other way.

A crucial fumble by replacement lock Giovanni Pettenelli as they pushed for the try that would have won the game was crucial.

Scots miss the direction of Russell and Hogg in attack

Scotland looked a lot less cohesive and threatening in attack without Finn Russell and Stuart Hogg. Although Kinghorn was the hero with three scores to match his haul from 2019, the talismanic pair were badly missed.

Italy were as adventurous and dogged as advertised, and they will feel this is one that got away. For the Scots, it means a second top three finish in five years in the Six Nations. But it was easily their most disjointed performance of the championship.

Scotland’s attacking game looked a lot less impressive in the first half. But they still manufactured a couple of memorable first half tries.

Tommaso Allan hooked an early penalty but landed a second as the Scots were penalised four times in the first 15 minutes.

They got an incredible finish after taking a tap penalty within sight of the Italian line. Jamie Ritchie was levelled in the tackle but Huw Jones deftly recovered the ball and flung it wide for Duhan van der Merwe.

The wing was well tackled by Paolo Garbisi at the corner flag. But he stretched while airborne to dot the ball down for the try.

The conversion was missed and Scotland gifted a penalty on the restart for Allan to kick Italy back ahead. Yet the Scots started to turn the screw and forced a series of penalties in the Italian 22.

Yellow card opens up Italy

Four scrum infringements in a row saw Italian tight head Marco Riccioni yellow carded. After nearly ten minutes in the scoring zone Scotland finally got in again.

Ben White drew the defence as Sione Tuipulotu ran a dummy run to keep them static. Kinghorn piled through a gap and two defenders to score, adding the conversion for a 12-6 lead.

The stand-off’s wild pass cost Scotland an opportunity on their next attack. Then Kyle Steyn’s inside ball was knocked away by an Italian with the line opening up.

But the Scots were solid, forcing errors on two big defensive sets to keep the Italians at bay.

A penalty for going off their feet by Italy gave Scotland an instant attacking platform in the second half, and they made it count.

Italy defended desperately and strongly pushing a Scot away from the line at least twice. Finally Kinghorn went through Juan Ignacio Brex and Sebastian Negri at the line for his second try.

He converted and Italy’s young nine Alessandro Fusco nearly opened Scotland up with a break but his wild pass missed Simone Gesi.

Flat spell and penalties lets Italy back in

But Scotland were surrendering possession and going through a flat period. Italy finally showed some spark after a laboured series of attacks. Paolo Garbisi’s cute grubber in behind Steyn allowed Tomasso Allan to score an unconverted try.

Then another loose pass by Kinghorn landed Tuipulotu in trouble. The Scots were penalised and Garbisi booted Italy back to just 19-14 behind.

Scotland gave a first cap to Ben Healy and Kinghorn went to full-back but the game was back in the balance.

And Scotland helped with a series of penalties that allowed Italy a foothold in the 22. But as they seemed certain to score a try, the fumble by Pettenelli in the shadow of the posts let the Scots off the hook.

And from the scrum, with a penalty advantage, Scotland broke out thrillingly through van der Merwe. Kinghorn was on his inside to finish a length-of-the-field bonus point try Scotland didn’t really deserve.

Att: 67,144


Scotland: Ollie Smith; Kyle Steyn, Huw Jones, Sione Tuipulotu, Duwan van der Merwe; Blair Kinghorn, Ben White; Pierre Schoeman, George Turner, Zander Fagerson; Sam Skinner, Jonny Gray; Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson, Jack Dempsey.

Replacements: Ewan Ashman (for Turner 51), Rory Sutherland (for Schoeman 59), WP Nel (for Z Fagerson 71), Scott Cummings (for Gray 59), Matt Fagerson (for Watson 51), Ali Price (for White 59), Ben Healy (for Smith 68), Cameron Redpath (for Tuipolotu 68).

Italy: Tommaso Allan; Luca Morisi, Juan Ignacio Brex, Tommaso Menoncello, Simone Gesi; Paolo Garbisi, Alessandro Fusco; Danilo Fischetti, Giacomo Nicotera, Marco Riccioni; Edoardo Iachizzi, Federico Ruzza; Sebastian Negri, Michele Lamaro, Lorenzo Cannone.

Replacements: Marco Manfredi (for Nicotera 71), Federico Zani (for Fischetti 57), Pietro Ceccarelli (for Riccioni 57), Niccolo Cannone (for Negri 46), Giovanni Pettinelli (for L Cannone 59), Manuel Zuliani (for Iachizzi 51), Alessandro Garbisi (for Fusco 51), Marco Zanon (for Morisi 71).

Referee: Angus Gardner (Aus).