Italy 16 Scotland 12
Italy once again beat Scotland at the Stadio Flaminio to end their long wait for an RBS 6 Nations victory.
Substitute Pablo Canavosio was the hero with a second-half try after Dan Parks almost single-handedly threatened to win the game for the visitors with another masterclass with the boot.
Mirco Bergamasco kicked Italy’s other points, ending their seven-match losing streak in the competition, as Scotland were left to rue a number of missed tryscoring opportunities.
The sides once again squared off in the Six Nations both looking for a first victory of the tournament.
But each were desperate to prove today’s fixture was not the Wooden Spoon decider it almost always proves to be.
Indeed, their respective performances against Wales and England two weeks ago suggested whoever won this afternoon’s game may be able to aim higher than fifth place.
Unchanged Italy were looking for their first Six Nations victory since this fixture two years ago, while injury-hit Scotland’s last away success in the competition was the sides’ previous Rome meeting in 2006.
The visitors had also lost on three of their last five visits to the Italian capital, although in Andy Robinson they had a head coach who had a 100% record against Italy from his time in the England set-up.
The home side began with purpose, looking to spread play wide quickly, and Mirco Bergamasco dropped the ball in a promising position.
There were further handling errors from both teams before Bergamasco made amends with a close-range 11th-minute penalty.
Bergamasco’s brother Mauro then stole the ball at the breakdown, prompting a desperate clearance into touch by Dan Parks and ultimately leading to a second successful Mirco Bergamasco penalty.
Scotland were struggling to get out of their own half, with only Parks’ excellent tactical kicking relieving the pressure.
One such clearance to touch allowed the visitors to exploit their opponents’ major weakness, stealing the resulting line-out and breaking clear.
The Italian defence swarmed but they soon infringed, allowing Parks to cut the deficit.
Scotland were turning over possession time and again in the tackle, seemingly failing to commit enough numbers at the breakdown.
But they finally got their rolling maul working effectively shortly before the half-hour and were rewarded when a backtracking Italy lost their discipline, allowing Parks to level with a 33rd-minute penalty.
Parks was reproducing his form from the Wales game, another fine kick to touch setting up another stolen lineout.
Barclay made the break but again lacked support and the attack fizzled out with a knock-on near the Italy line.
But Scotland were now well on top and their best move of the half saw Johnnie Beattie go close before the home side illegally prevented what looked set to be a try.
Parks blotted his copybook by missing the toughest of touchline penalties as the referee refused to allow a Sean Lamont touchdown to stand after he tried to take a quick tap and go.
More poor Scotland play at the breakdown allowed Mirco Bergamasco to convert a 40-metre penalty three minutes into the second half.
But the visitors suddenly injected some real pace and aggression into their attacks, spreading the ball from left to right in the blink of an eye.
Unfortunately, prop Allan Jacobsen was the man on the wing and although team-mates arrived to drive him over the line, the television match official could not see through the mass of bodies to be able to award a try.
Italy infringed at the resulting five-metre scrum and Scotland chose to pack down again, camping themselves on the tryline amid magnificent defending from the home side.
Parks was eventually forced into a drop-goal from point-blank range to level the scores again.
Italy surged forward from the restart but Gonzalo Garcia spilt the ball out wide when a try looked on.
The hosts replaced scrum-half Tito Tebaldi with Canavosio, while Scotland brought on Mike Blair and Alasdair Strokosch for Chris Cusiter and Beattie.
Hugo Southwell claimed Mirco Bergamasco’s kick and chase to prevent a certain Italy try.
It proved crucial as Scotland went ahead for the first time in the match, Parks kicking a 30-metre penalty after Canavosio’s infringement.
Nick De Luca came on for Simon Danielli before Italy’s replacement scrum-half made amends with the game’s opening try in the 66th minute.
Gonzalo Canale exploited a massive hole in the Scotland defence to race clear, and Canavosio popped up in support to score under the posts. Mirco Bergamasco added the extras.
A raft of substitutions followed for both sides as Scotland desperately tried to hit back.
Jacobsen went close yet again after a line-out but the TMO once more ruled he had not touched down.
Italy stole the five-metre scrum and then won a penalty on halfway after Barclay failed to release the ball.
Craig Gower’s kick did not have the distance and Scotland breathed again.
But they were unable to break through in the closing seconds as Italy held on for another famous win.