10 Jun MATCH REPORT | Scotland (15) 34-13 (3) ITALY
Scotland defeated Italy 34-13 on a hot and humid night at the Singapore National Stadium, making history in the first ever tier-one rugby international to be played in the Lion City.
Gregor Townsend’s first match as Scotland Head Coach ended in victory with his side scoring five tries and producing a well-rounded performance that combined strong set-piece with good handling and defence.
Rumbles of thunder ahead of kick off brought dark clouds as back-row John Hardie dropped out just before kick-off with a back spasm picked up in the warm-up, meaning Ryan Wilson started in the back row, with Rory Hughes coming onto the bench.
The Scots had stated their ambition to play a fast game and draw on their fitness and preparation time back home in the build-up, and their conditioning saw Ali Price and Tim Visser score two tries in two minutes at the end of the first half to finally break clear of Italy after opening penalties kept the scores 3-3 for the majority of the first 40.
Cap centurion hooker Ross Ford scored two tries, to double his career tally, in the opening 10 minutes of the second half before Damien Hoyland dotted down.
A noisy crowd of 8,734 saw early possession for Scotland with John Barclay breaking into the opposition 22 which Russell finished off with a chip which just went dead.
A couple of early penalties gave Scotland good field possession and a 5-metre lineout drew a third penalty in the opening five mins from Italy, which stand-off Finn Russell duly converted (3-0).
Scrum-half Ali Price was looking sharp in distribution, Russell was bringing players into the game neatly and Ben Toolis carried well on his first start but it was Italy who were given the next guilt-edged opportunity at points, which Tomasso Allan successfully kicked (3-3).
For much of the first-half Scotland had been creating good field possession but not converting into points as demonstrated when Visser was denied a lunge at the line due to obstruction, enabling Italy to kick clear.
Italy’s attack looked a little blunt and was relying on counter-attacks and penalties to gain field position in the opening 30mins.
However Italian indiscipline saw them concede 10 penalties and a yellow card in the first half and it was from an infringement inside their own 22 that the opening try came.
Russell looked like he wanted to kick to the corner but quick tapped and, from the resulting phases, Italy infringed again.
With a ‘free ball’ Scotland attacked out wide with Price giving winger Esposito a dummy to dive over and score his first try for Scotland, which went unconverted (8-3).
With the clock ticking towards the interval Scotland broke out from the restart at blistering pace. Russell hoisted a kick into the Italian half which Hoyland caught superbly in mid air to keep possession.
After a quick recycle Russell chipped over the Italians again for Visser to catch the ball three metres out and plant over the line right on half time.
Half–time: Scotland 15-3 Italy
The second half started much like the first with Italy conceding a penalty in the opening minute and Scotland kicked to the corner.
The pack collected the ball from the resulting lineout and the big men began to maul. Ford found his way to the back and as the forwards rumbled on he broke free and powered over from an unstoppable distance. Russell added the extras to extend the lead (22-3).
The Italians conceded another penalty from the restart and debutant Dean Budd was sent to the sin bin for killing the ball after multiple Italian infringements.
The resulting try was arguably the pick of the night and a great team effort.
From an attack just outside the Italian 22, Russell gave an inside pass to Duncan Taylor, who gave it to Hoyland, who made more ground towards the Italian line. Hoyland then fed Russell who first drew contact before flicking the ball behind his back to Ford who came on to the ball on a fine angle and at pace, pushing past defenders to score his second.
Russell missed the resulting conversion (27-3).
Scotland continued to win set pieces, they drew three scrum penalties on the night and were getting a lot of change out of the breakdown, with Ben Toolis and John Barclay visible throughout.
Italy’s first try came from a Scottish mistake just after the hour when, after good Scotland phases, Magnus Bradbury knocked on allowing flanker Maxime Mata Mbanda to collect the ball and break free before passing outside to the supporting centre Michele Campagnaro to score.
The conversion hit the post with the scores remaining 27-8.
The Scots seemed to up the intensity in the last quarter with replacement scrum-half Henry Pyrgos fizzing passes to keep the play sweeping from wing to wing with only a knock-on denying a short range try on 70 minutes.
Scotland’s successful scrum saw replacement back-row Abraham Steyn yelow carded for needlessly upending Henry Pyrgos off the ball.
Scotland took another scrum and worked the ball to the right wing for Hoyland to take a short Taylor pass to score, before replacement stand-off Pete Horne converted superbly form the sideline (8-34).
Italy scored through winger Esposito at the death but it was a winning start for Scotland’s summer tour campaign which now moves to Sydney for a match vs Australia the following Saturday 17 June (live on Sky Sports).
Attendance: 8,734 crowd.
Italy: 15. Edoardo Padovani; 14. Angelo Esposito, 13. Michele Campagnaro, 12. Tommaso Boni, 11. Leonardo Sarto; 10. Tommaso Allan, 9. Edoardo Gori CAPTAIN; 1. Andrea Lovotti, 2. Luca Bigi, 3. Simone Ferrari, 4. Marco Fuser, 5. Dean Budd, 6. Francesco Minto, 7. Maxime Mata Mbanda, 8. Robert Julian Barbieri. Substitutes: 16. Ornel Gega, 17 Federico Zani, 18. Pietro Ceccarelli, 19. Andries Van Schalkwyk, 20. Abraham Steyn, 21. Marcello Violi, 22. Carlo Canna, 23. Tommaso Benvenuti.
Scotland: 15. Duncan Taylor; 14. Damien Hoyland, 13. Matt Scott, 12. Alex Dunbar, 11. Tim Visser; 10. Finn Russell, 9. Ali Price; 1. Allan Dell, 2. Ross Ford, 3. Willem Nel, 4. Tim Swinson, 5. Ben Toolis, 6. John Barclay CAPTAIN, 7. Ryan Wilson, 8. Josh Strauss. Substitutes: 16. Fraser Brown for Ford (55′), 17. Gordon Reid for Dell (19′ for blood, off at 28′, on at 55′) 18. Zander Fagerson for Nel (55′), 19. Rob Harley for Strauss (51′), 20. Magnus Bradbury for Swinson (58′), 21. Rory Hughes for Visser (66′), 22. Henry Pyrgos for Price (51′), 23. Pete Horne for Russell (32′ HIA, off at 42′, on at 49′).