Scotland see off Italy in Turin
Scotland finally brought their eight-month wait for a win to an end as they edged a drab affair against Italy in Turin with a 16-12 victory.
Vern Cotter's side had lost every match they had played in 2015 but substitute scrum-half Henry Pyrgos's try five minutes from the end of the World Cup warm-up clash at the Olympic Stadium was enough to finally get them on the board.
But with just nine days until Cotter names his squad for the global tournament being staged in England, the head coach will be concerned that only adopted Scot John Hardie, substitute Peter Horne and Pyrgos seemed to show a desire to impress.
The Italians visit Murrayfield next week and the Kiwi will hope his men realise the importance of that fixture as they try to build some momentum ahead of their Pool B opener with Japan on September 23.
Rory Hughes, New Zealand-born Hardie, Stuart McInally, Damien Hoyland and Willem Nel all claimed their first caps but the reality is that most will not add to their tally when the action begins next month.
Cotter was forced to rearrange his plans before kick-off when skipper Grant Gilchrist was ruled out with a sickness bug. Al Strokosch took on the captaincy duties while Jim Hamilton moved up from the bench to start.
The Scots were looking to make a quick start and they got just that as stand-off Duncan Weir slotted over two penalties inside the first 12 minutes.
There was some early panic as the hosts and their heavyweight pack came back at Scotland with a series of powerful drives which were only halted by some last-gasp scrambling.
Without a win in eight months, there was no chance Scotland would gamble on kicking for touch as they instead made sure they got points on the board.
Weir's third successful attempt came after 19 minutes, but only after Azzurri kicker Gonzalo Garcia put his side on the board.
Italy gave the Scots major problems with their driving maul as they won in Edinburgh earlier this year and their pack proved their might once more as they turned a scrum, allowing former Scotland Under-19 cap Tommy Allan - now representing the land of his mother - to trim the lead once again with a penalty.
Some of the home side's interplay off the back of their offloading was spell-binding but Scotland were did well to contain them, with wing Hughes' tap tackle on his Leonardo Sarto especially crucial.
And the visitors' resolve refused to crack in the last few seconds before the break as Italy changed tack, sending their forwards in to try to bulldoze through the Dark Blues' defence.
A succession of rucks came and went as the Azzurri had to settle for another Allan kick just before the interval.
However, the Azzurri came again after the break and talismanic flanker Martin Castrogiovanni came within an inch of scoring as he was held up by more desperate defending.
Weir could have relieved some pressure on the Scots but tugged a penalty wide.
Instead, it was Allan who nudged Italy in front for the first time with another penalty.
Scotland needed to turn it up if they had any chance of ending their losing run but there was no-one on Horne's wavelength as he burst through the Italians defence only to be dragged down by Luke McLean 10 metres short.
But there was relief at last as the Italians were finally carved open. Horne and Matt Scott combined to cut their way into space on the right and Glasgow's Pyrgos was left unchecked to collect a simple and cross over for the winning score, converted by Weir.