Man of the match Finn Russell goes over for Scotland's first try
18 March 2017, 02:31 pm ::
By Charlie Talbot-Smith
Scotland send off Cotter on a high after downing Italy
Scotland signed off departing head coach Vern Cotter in style as they claimed a bonus-point win over Italy in their final clash of the 2017 RBS 6 Nations.
Tries from man of the match Finn Russell, Matt Scott, Tim Visser and Tommy Seymour did the damage for the Scots who have won three matches in a Championship for the first time since 2006 and guaranteed themselves a top-half finish in the table.
With two more games to come on Super Saturday, Scotland sit temporarily in second in the standings - a fitting tribute to the work Cotter has done in his three years in charge.
Meanwhile for Italy they have now lost 12 in a row in this Championship and finish bottom of the 2017 standings for the second year on the spin.
Conor O'Shea's side have only won two of 44 away RBS 6 Nations games but both of them came at BT Murrayfield, including most recently in 2015.
However, without Simone Favaro and Michele Campagnaro, they struggled from the outset in the wet conditions and an early scrum penalty for the hosts afforded Stuart Hogg the chance to slam over an early nerve settler.
In truth the first quarter was a messy affair for both sides, riddled with missed lineouts, wayward kicks and a number of knock-ons in the slippery weather.
Carlo Canna then pulled his first penalty attempt well wide in the 20th minute when Scotland infringed at the breakdown and Scotland went right down the other end and grabbed the game's first try.
A period of sustained pressure saw Huw Jones make the burst - although he stumbled in trying to round the last defender and injured himself - and establish Scotland deep in the Italian 22. Visser came close but eventually it was Russell who wriggled over in the left corner after being well fed by half-back partner Ali Price.
With the conversion as well, Russell had put Scotland into a 10-0 lead but Italy were handed an immediate chance to hit back when Jonny Gray was penalised for obstruction. But again Canna could not take advantage.
And after the half-hour mark Scotland struck again, Jones' replacement Scott cutting a hard line to take the Scots close and then, with advantage being played, Price's hopeful up and under was tapped back by Hogg for Scott to fall on.
Russell could not add the extras from out wide this time but when Canna missed his third penalty of the afternoon on the stroke of the break it was 15-0 to the hosts at the turnaround.
O'Shea's Italy side needed the first score of the second half but, despite near total dominance up to the hour mark and with Scotland skipper Barclay in the sin-bin, they could not find a way through.
Kickable penalties were sent to the corner but a combination of superb Scotland defence and blunt Italian attack meant that the hosts' line remained unbreached.
Hogg in particular was magnificent, twice denying Angelo Esposito in the corner when the winger seemed destined to score and when Barclay returned shortly after the hour Scotland grabbed a third and the full-back was again the architect.
His clever chip in behind was not dealt with by the Italian defence and Visser was on hand to ground the ball, Russell's conversion made it 22-0 and with 18 minutes to chase a fourth try and a bonus point.
And with less than ten minutes to go the score duly arrived and it was Hogg the provider again, releasing Seymour on an overlap down the right to give them a fighting chance of a second-place finish.