Scotland steals last-second win over Italy
PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — Alasdair Strokosch scored a try after the final hooter for Scotland to steal a 30-29 win over Italy in their all-northern hemisphere rugby test in South Africa on Saturday, giving the Scots a final flourish in both team’s season-ender.
Strokosch’s last-gasp score was converted by captain Greig Laidlaw for the match-winning points at Loftus Versfeld as the Six Nations rivals shared five tries in all on the South African highveld and were locked at 20-20 at halftime.
Italy edged 29-23 ahead through flyhalf Alberto Di Bernardo’s boot in the second and appeared to be closing on its first win of the four-nation tournament until flanker Strokosch burst through near the posts with the last play, giving the Scots a first victory in the mini tournament instead.
Both teams scored two first-half tries, and Di Bernardo’s 19 points ultimately weren’t enough for Italy.
Laidlaw kicked 15 points for Scotland, but the Scots had just a solitary penalty from their scrumhalf for almost the entire second period until Strokosch’s late and dramatic break.
Italy wing Leonardo Sarto scored inside the first minute. Center Matt Scott canceled that try out for Scotland in the sixth minute. Sean Lamont went over for Scotland in the 16th, before an Italy penalty try near halftime brought it back into contention.
In a tighter second 40, Di Bernardo landed three shots at goal, two of them from way out, to push Italy within seconds of a satisfying win over Scotland to go with its Six Nations successes over France and Ireland this year.
Only Strokosch gave Scotland victory to end its season, forcing his way through a gap after the Italian defense had rushed up in desperation to hold the Scots out.
The teams had earlier thrown up three tries in the opening 16 minutes, more through tentative defending than outstanding attacking.
Sarto sliced through after just 50 seconds as a gap opened up in front of him on the short side. Scott replied five minutes later for Scotland with a swerving run down the middle and with Italy’s defense holding off, he kept on going to score.
Giovanbattista Venditti’s error on Italy’s tryline gave Scotland the go-ahead score, with the wing knocking on a few meters out and Laidlaw scooping up the ball to feed Lamont out wide.
Laidlaw’s penalty in the 21st stretched the lead to 17-10 but Italy worked its way back through its strength up front and earned a penalty try just after the half-hour when Scotland collapsed three scrums in a row five meters out.
Laidlaw’s boot edged Scotland ahead again, before Di Bernardo kicked a 50-meter penalty a minute before halftime to tie it up, with the teams exactly matched at the break with two tries, two conversions and two penalties each.
Di Bernardo’s three shots to Laidlaw’s one put Italy on the brink of a win to finish the three-week, four-nation tournament until a late and costly defensive lapse let Strokosch in and left Scotland with a late boost.
South Africa plays Samoa in tournament final later on Saturday.
Scotland 30 (Matt Scott, Sean Lamont, Alasdair Strokosch tries; Greig Laidlaw 3 conversions, 3 penalties), Italy 29 (Leonardo Sarto, penalty tries; Alberto Di Bernardo 2 conversions, 5 penalties). HT: 20-20.