Greig Laidlaw sensed Scotland would end losing run against Italy
Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw says he looked in his team-mates' eyes before taking on Italy in Rome and knew they would finally end their two-year search for an RBS 6 Nations win.
The determined Dark Blues had not triumphed in a Championship clash since their last visit to the Eternal City in 2014.
But they claimed a 36-20 victory thanks in part to tries from John Barclay, John Hardie and Tommy Seymour.
The hosts came close at the Stadio Olimpico with scores from Leonardo Ghiraldini and Marco Fuser but every time the Azzurri thought they were on a charge, captain Laidlaw kept them at bay with his trusty kicking.
He nailed seven attempts out of eight, adding 21 points, to ensure an embarrassing nine-game run of defeats did not become 10, and the Gloucester scrum-half insisted he never doubted Vern Cotter's side would eventually come good after witnessing the steely resolve in his colleagues ahead of the match.
"I knew when we took to the field that we were going to win, I could see it in the boys' eyes," said the skipper. "I saw it in the way that we had prepared all week under Vern and the other coaches, so that for me is pleasing.
"Italy were on top for a couple of points in the game which you are always going to get at this level, but our scrum was absolutely fantastic.
"We had Stuart Hogg's touch of class at the end to put Tommy Seymour away for the third which was fantastic.
"The character shown when we were defending on our line, 15 of us, just digging in, filling in where we're needed, that is what got us across the line."
Scotland lost both their opening clashes with England and Wales after letting golden opportunities slip at vital moments, b ut they were never in danger of tripping up this time after flying out of the traps.
Barclay was teed up by a clever offload from Hogg after 10 minutes while Hardie dived over just after the quarter hour following Finn Russell's daring break.
Ghiraldini trimmed the deficit back after 30 minutes before Fuser squeezed the ball down for Italy's second midway through the second half after Russell was sent to the sin bin.
But Scotland - thanks to Laidlaw, whose kicking kept the scoreboard ticking over - always held the hosts at arm's length.
WP Nel was also shown a yellow card with eight minutes remaining but Scotland refused to panic and eventually sealed the victory they craved so badly two minutes from time when Hogg produced another stunning assist for Seymour as he tossed the ball to his Glasgow team-mate from behind his back.
Now Laidlaw is determined to use the victory as a springboard for further success.
"I was delighted to win the game," he said. "It's been a while since we won. Now, on the back of a good victory, we can't wait to pull on that jersey again in a few weeks' time against France back at home."
The Scots are not exactly blessed with stacks of winning experience.
For youngsters like Jonny Gray and Mark Bennett, Saturday's victory is their first sample of Six Nations glory.
But Cotter was pleased with how his team handled the pressure situations as Italy tried to scrap their way back into the match.
The Kiwi said: "It was a good start, scoring two tries, and I thought we kept the ball and our speed and tempo up in the game.
"We knew they would come back and they did, and I thought they probably had the better part of the last 10 or 15 minutes of the first half. Credit to these boys because they stepped up and got themselves through what was a challenging second half and finished with a try.
"Rather than being worried about losing, they strived for the win right till the end and scored that try. It shows a lot in the courage and character of the team. At different parts of the game we had to negotiate yellow cards and the boys stuck together. It's about the team, these boys have got a win and I think they deserved it."