After suffering a narrow defeat to Ireland in their first World Cup warm up match last week, Scotland bounced back to beat Italy 16-12 in Turin in a nervy and uninspiring encounter.
Head coach Vern Cotter made 11 changes to the side that played in Dublin, while Italy were playing their first match since the end of the Six Nations in March.
Among the changes for the Scots was Highlanders flanker John Hardie, who was only called up by Cotter in July. The 27 year-old Kiwi impressed throughout, making several big tackles and being very active at the breakdown.
Despite dominating the opening 40 minutes, Scotland had to make do with being pegged back to 9-9 at the half-time break. Two Duncan Weir penalties gave the visitors an early lead before Italy – through kickers Gonzalo Garcia and Tommaso Allan – responded.
The second half was a shadow of the first in terms of both quality and accuracy. Allan’s third penalty gave the home side the lead for the first time on 61 minutes.
Denied a try despite a driving maul breaching the Scottish line, Italy conceded in the closing stages as Henry Pyrgos finished off a well taken counter-attacking try for Scotland.
Winger Sean Lamont made use of scrappy ball to put Greig Tonks into space. The full back then released Matt Scott down the wing before the centre gave scrum-half Pyrgos an easy walk-in. Weir converted and Scotland secured the victory with a final minute scrum penalty.
Speaking of the strength of character displayed by his side in challenging circumstances: Scotland struggled to keep composure and accuracy in the second period – Cotter was happy with the way the team grinded out victory.
“We wanted a hard game and we got that,” he said. “It was not an easy game, very physical. We are happy with a few things. It was a reasonable performance, not perfect and could have gone either way.”
Both sides must now focus their attentions on the re-match at BT Murrayfield this Saturday 29 August, kick-off 3.15pm. The meeting in Edinburgh will be the last competitive weekend before all sides’ final Rugby World Cup squads have to be announced on 31 August.
Scotland have annoucned that seven players have been released from the wider training squad: Glasgow’s Mike Cusack and Kevin Bryce, along with Edinburgh quintet Dougie Fife, Ben Toolis, Damien Hoyland, Allan Dell and Hamish Watson will all return to their clubs.
credit: rugby channel