A sensational try by Simon Danielli and a fine score from Scott Gray helped Scotland beat Italy in the Six Nations for the first time in three years. Danielli's score – his first for five years – and a maiden test try from Gray gave Frank Hadden's men their first win in this season's tournament and eased the pressure on the head coach.
However, it was an otherwise poor performance from Scotland, whose other points were kicked by Chris Paterson and Phil Godman, while Italy's scores came through captain Sergio Parisse and Luke McLean.
Two years ago, Scotland stunned by gifting the Azzurri three tries in an incredible opening seven minutes, a spell from which they failed to recover. Out-half Phil Godman was largely responsible for that calamity but his hopes of making amends were ended by a facial injury inside four minutes. That brought record points-scorer Paterson into the fray and his first act was to kick a penalty from an Italy infringement.
The visitors lost Gonzalo Garcia in the same incident, so Andrea Bacchetti came on to the wing, with Mirco Bergamasco moving to centre. Gonzalo Canale then broke through two tackles before being held up near the corner as Italy hit back. Despite having little territory, Scotland were handed another penalty after 12 minutes which Paterson made look easy from the angle.
With Godman fit to resume, Paterson then returned to the bench. A superb kick from Italy number 10 Luke McLean set up a five-metre line-out which Ross Ford made a hash of but the visitors infringed again at the scrum and Scotland survived.
The spectre of two years ago returned to haunt the hosts midway through the half when Hugo Southwell threw a suicide pass which Alessandro Zanni intercepted. Scotland scrambled to bring Zanni down five metres out but the error ultimately proved costly when Azzurri captain Sergio Parisse – a number eight by trade – somehow dropped a goal.
Yet again, Italy shot themselves in the foot by infringing the moment their opponents got into their half. But Godman buckled under the pressure of the resulting penalty, casting further doubt over his test credentials. He made no mistake with a much easier opportunity on the half-hour mark as Scotland finally managed to hold onto the ball inside the Italy half.
There was no indication of what was to follow as Simon Danielli scored one of the tries of the tournament so far. Scotland won a line-out and a sublime interchange involving backs and forwards sent Danielli clear, and he made no mistake to touch down under the posts. Godman converted before Marcato missed a late long-range penalty. Both sides changed their full-backs early in the second half, Paterson coming on for Southwell and Giulio Rubini coming on for Marcato. And before long, it was Scotland's turn to start conceding penalties. But Italy shunned long-range goal attempts for territory, which they were beginning to dominate again.
The home side suffered a blow when hooker Ford went off injured, Dougie Hall coming on. Italy finally decided to kick a penalty – which McLean converted – moments before Scotland withdrew captain Mike Blair for Chris Cusiter. The visitors also changed scrum-half, Pablo Canavosio replacing Paul Griffen. Italy made further substitutions in a game that had long since returned to its turgid worst.
Much had been made during the week of wearing Italy down and pulling away in the final quarter. Scotland certainly began in that fashion, thanks to another fine score.
Danielli was involved again, feeding Thom Evans, who raced to the line before keeping cool in the tackle to offload to substitute Scott Gray for his first test try. Paterson converted.
Scotland went further ahead thanks to another Paterson penalty. Mauro Bergamasco almost scored a consolation with a chip and chase, but he got no luck with the bounce.
SCOTLAND H Southwell; S Danieli, M Evans, G Morrison, T Evans; P Godman, M Blair; A Jacobsen, R Ford, E Murray; J White, A Kellock; A Strokosch, J Barclay, S Taylor Subs C Paterson for Godman, 3-12 mins; Paterson for Southwell, 47 mins; D Hall for Ford, 52 mins; C Cusiter for Blair, 55 mins; S Gray for Barclay, 56 mins; N de Luca and A Dickinson for Morrison and Murray, 67 mins; K Brown for Jacobsen, 68 mins
ITALY A Marcato; Mi Bergamasco, G Canale, G Garcia, M Pratichetti; L McLean, P Griffen; S Perugini, L Ghiraldini, M Castrogiovanni; S Dellape, L Bortolami; A Zanni, Ma Bergamasco, S Parisse Subs A Bachetti for Garcia, 3 mins; G Rubini for Marcato, 47 mins; P Canavosio for Griffen, 56 mins; C del Favo for Dellape, 57 mins; C Niete and H Sbaraglini for Castrogiovanni and Ghiraldini, 58 mins; J Sole for Bortolami, 76 mins
Referee N Owens (Wales)