Italy 20 Scotland 21
Duncan Weir’s last-gasp drop-goal saved Scotland for the RBS 6 Nations wooden spoon as they beat Italy 21-20.
Tries from Tommy Allan and Joshua Furno looked like it had put Italy on course for their first victory of the tournament.
But in a much improved display from under-fire head coach Scott Johnson’s team, Scotland grabbed their first tries of the Championship with Alex Dunbar’s impressive double before heroically nailed a 40-yard kick with just 10 seconds left to win the match.
Scotland arrived in Rome in desperate need of a win to lift their sagging morale after the devastating 20-0 defeat to England a fortnight ago.
Head coach Scott Johnson pinned his hopes on the returning Richie Gray - dropped for the Auld Enemy encounter after Johnson claimed the Castres lock needed to work on his defensive game – adding bite to his so-far toothless pack, while hooker Ross Ford and number eight David Denton were dropped as Scott Lawson and Johnnie Beattie returned to the Dark Blues line-up.
The Scots would have a familiar face appearing against them at the Stadio Olimpico as former Scotland Under-20s fly-half Tommy Allan started for the Azzurri, representing the country of his Italian mother.
There was also record-breaking run-outs for skipper Sergio Parisse and prop Martin Castrogiovanni as they both earned their 104th caps, eclipsing the previous highest Italian tally set by Andrea Lo Cicero.
The Scots showed a hunger to attack in the opening stages and a clever Duncan Weir pass out wide to wing Tommy Seymour looked like it had created a chance until the Glasgow man overcooked his chip-and-chase.
But there were signs early on that the vistitors were struggling against an imposing Italian pack as Moray Low was twice penalised for collapsing a scrum.
Scotland got lucky after 13 minutes when Allan knocked the ball on just as he was about to finish off the home side’s first real attack.
But the Perpignan back was still able to put his side ahead as he successfully kicked a penalty awarded for an earlier infringement.
But after more than two hours of action across three matches without registering a point, Greig Laidlaw soon put Scotland on the scoreboard as he tucked away a penalty of his own.
Allan, though, blew the chance to put his team back in front when he screwed wide with his next attempt.
A rush of blood to the head then saw Duncan Weir waste a decent chance as he found a gap in Italy’s defence, only to then cough up the ball after a slip.
From the same position as his earlier miss, Allan made amends as he stuck the ball firmly between the posts to edge Italy three points in front as Scotland began to lose their discipline.
The Dark Blues tried to be positive but their decision-making was once again their weak point as the ball was handed back to the hosts just as something meaningful was brewing.
The opposite was true of Italy as they opened Scotland up before Allan crashed through two weak tackles to score his second try for Italy before converting his own touchdown for the extras.
Despite that late setback, Scotland made a confident start to the second period, trimming the Italians back by three points as Laidlaw nailed a 35-yard penalty.
But they wasted the chance to cut the deficit further when Laidlaw opted against taking an easy penalty in favour of a surprise tap-and-go, only to see Matt Scott slip just as he played in the centre.
But after 54 minutes the visitors’ long wait for their first try of the tournament was ended.
From a ruck, Scotland worked the ball through Scott, then Stuart Hogg and finally Alex Dunbar as he drove in between two Italians before careering over in the corner.
But they still trailed as Laidlaw failed with his conversion attempt from wide on the right.
The Scots were building decent territory but Laidlaw’s hesitancy was hurting them around the breakdown when quick ball was the order of the day.
But the Italians were wasteful too, with substitute Lorenzo Cittadini guilty of knocking on as he was about to barge his way through the Scottish back-line.
It was a costly mistake as on 68 minutes as Dunbar scored his second try.
Sean Lamont burst past Allan before passing over to replacement scrum-half Chris Cusiter who shunted on for Dunbar to sprint home from 25 yards out, ignoring support runner Matt Scott.
Duncan Weir took over the kicking duties with Laidlaw off and added the extra two to put Scotland on the verge of victory.
But their carelessness came back to haunt them as they failed to cover their left flank, allowing Parisse to play in lock Joshua Furno to level before Luciano Orquera regained Italy’s lead with the conversion.
But Weir’s last-gasp drop goal sealed the long-awaited win for Johnson’s men and sparked jubilant celebrations amongst the Scots players.