Rome relief for Scotland boss Gregor Townsend
Scotland needed a last-gasp penalty to avoid defeat.
Gregor Townsend says Scotland’s roller-coaster victory over Italy in Rome felt just as good as toppling England.
The Scots had to fight back from 12 points down to ensure their NatWest 6 Nations campaign did not end on a whimper.
Greig Laidlaw struck the winning penalty with just 90 seconds left as the Dark Blues finally shook off the plucky Azzurri.
The 29-27 result means Townsend’s team end the campaign with three wins for the second year running and the head coach believes that is proof of their growing capabilities.
He reckons his players will take as much from winning despite a below-par display as they did from last month’s Calcutta Cup win over the Auld Enemy.
But he confessed he was put through the wringer as the Italians came close to pinching their first win of the championship.
“It’s great to pick up an away win,” said Townsend after Scotland ended their two-year wait for a Six Nations victory outside Edinburgh. “Today’s game will be as valuable as the win against England in terms of experience this group has and being able to beat teams when you are not playing your best.
“I said to someone before the game that today was going to be a roller-coaster and it’s been like that during the championships.
“We went missing during that first game in Cardiff but got things back against France and England. We were getting better with each game. Even in the Ireland game we did a lot of good things.
“Today was a roller-coaster for 80 minutes too. We missed a large part of the first half but got things back on track in the second.”
Fraser Brown and John Barclay both scored for the Scots during the opening 40 minutes but they went in behind at half-time after Tommaso Allan and Matteo Minozzi both touched down.
Things were looking perilous when Allan scored again but tries from Sean Maitland and Stuart Hogg put Scotland back in contention.
It appeared victory was slipping away when Allan’s penalty nudged Italy ahead once more with just five minutes left.
But Laidlaw kept his nerve to nail the winning kick as the clock ticked towards full-time.
The Scots entered the championship with high hopes of mounting a serious title tilt but self-inflicted mistakes cost them against Wales and Ireland.
However, Townsend believes his team have got much more to show, saying: “We’ve got a long way to go to reach our potential.
“It has been a good experience for their careers, to get three wins in such a competitive championship.
“I don’t think we have produced our New Zealand performance or our Australia performance during the championship.
“For 60 minutes of the England game we were right up there with our November performances.
“Today we weren’t playing a top-five team in the world but it was a team that asked us a lot of questions. That second-half response, that resilience, that togetherness, was great to see.”
Defeat means Italy have equalled France’s 1911-1920 record of 17 straight championship losses.
But coach Conor O’Shea said: “We’re coming. Boy, we played some rugby out there against a team who have beaten Australia, beaten England and were close to beating New Zealand.
“Did we not game manage? Yes, at times, you could say we didn’t. The only way for some young players to learn is by being out there. Time at the crease you could say.”