EDINBURGH, Scotland (AP) — Scotland rebounded from tumbling out of the Six Nations title hunt by inflicting on Italy inevitable defeat by a record 52-10 in an empty Murrayfield on Saturday.
Italy scored the opening try against the team it looks forward to most playing in the tournament, and the game was an actual contest — until the 20th minute when Italy center Federico Mori was sin-binned for a late shoulder charge on opposite Sam Johnson.
While Mori was out for 10 minutes, Scotland poured in its third and bonus-point fourth tries to jump from 12-10 to 24-10 and the tension drained away.
A Scotland much changed from the loss to Ireland last week finished with eight tries and some team records: Highest score in the Six Nations era, and biggest win over Italy.
Coach Gregor Townsend received more good news: Scottish Rugby, the Six Nations, and English clubs negotiated the release of his players outside the international window for the match against France in Paris postponed from last month to next Friday.
“We’ll have a strong squad, as strong as we can have,” Townsend said. “Does this protect the integrity of the competition? Yeah, I believe it does, but I also believe it shows we can work together and find a solution.”
This young Italy side completed a sixth consecutive tournament whitewash breaking its own records: Most points conceded in the Six Nations era, 239, the most since its debut in 2000, and 34 tries conceded. Also, Italy’s tournament record losing streak extended to 32 matches.
The Italians undermined their cause with three yellow cards — they were briefly down to 13 in the second half — born of frustration without the ball more than nastiness.
“We are a long way from where we want to be,” Italy captain Luca Bigi said. “We will not give up. Tomorrow, we turn a page.”
By halftime, Scotland’s 24-10 lead could still be overcome but Italy was too passive. There was no pressure on the Scottish lineout — where Ireland humiliated them last week — and the inside backs, allowing the home side to move the ball wide and find space. Italy missed 27 tackles in the half, 49 by the end of the match, an amount another team might concede over a whole tournament.
After Bigi scored from a lineout drive in the sixth minute, Scotland replicated the same score for its own hooker, first-time starter David Cherry.
Wing Duhan van der Merwe was next over after a 50-meter break up the middle by center Huw Jones, and Jones gave the last pass for wing Darcy Graham to score after breaks by Cherry from a lineout and Sean Maitland.
Graham had the wind knocked out of him by a great tackle by opposite Montanna Ioane but recovered to start a counterattack that finished with Jones streaking away to the posts.
Scotland secured the result five minutes after halftime with Cherry’s second try from a drive off an uncontested lineout.
Italy then suffered yellow cards to flanker Sebastian Negri for knocking the ball out of Hamish Watson’s hands, and to Ioane for a tip tackle on Scotland captain Stuart Hogg, who capably filled in at flyhalf for an injured Finn Russell but expected to be at fullback against France.
Scotland added more tries to scrumhalf Scott Steele, Johnson, and Van der Merwe for his second.
“We had a lot of fun,” Hogg said.
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