Highlights | Scotland run in eight tries as they sweep aside Italy at Murrayfield
Scotland made it third time lucky at Murrayfield as they cruised to their first home win of the Guinness Six Nations with a record-breaking 52-10 thrashing of Italy.
Skipper Stuart Hogg admitted ahead of the game he was feeling nervous about standing-in for the injured Finn Russell at fly-half.
But the full-back had nothing to worry about as his side ran in eight tries against an Azzurri outfit who will be glad to see the end of a miserable campaign.
Hooker Dave Cherry scored twice on his first start, while scrum-half Scott Steele also marked his full debut with a try.
There was a brace too for Duhan Van Der Merwe while Darcy Graham, Huw Jones and Sam Johnson contributed to the Scots’ biggest ever Six Nations victory.
Following agonising back-to-back defeats against Wales and Ireland, this was the soother Gregor Townsend’s team needed and will raise spirits ahead of next week’s delayed curtain-closer with France in Paris.
Italy had shipped an average of 46 points in their four previous games – and the haemorrhaging continued as Townsend’s team became the quickest team so far this year to run up a bonus point, taking just 28 minutes to dot down four tries.
Yet it was the visitors who started the brighter, scoring inside six minutes as Luca Bigi squeezed over to score in the corner as Scotland’s maul defence crumbled.
But it would not last as Italy’s own inability to resist a line-out drive saw Scotland hit back within four minutes, with Cherry powering over. Hogg’s conversion skidded wide but it did not matter as they moved in front on 14 minutes.
Matt Fagerson and then Jones provided two huge carries to drive Italy scrambling back to their own 22.
Scotland maintained their patience before exploding to the left as Hogg, Johnson and Hamish Watson combined to release the juggernaut that is Van Der Merwe in space out wide.
The big wing motored over the line, leaving a string of bodies in his wake, before skipping towards the posts to hand Hogg an easier shot at the extras.
Paolo Garbisi fired a penalty over but it was futile resistance.
Federico Mori saw yellow for a reckless shoulder hit on Johnson and Scotland were quick to exploit their temporary man advantage when Sean Maitland charged to within sight of the line.
Jones took over but was immediately pounced upon by Mattia Bellini before he could score.
But there was no salvation for the Azzurri as Jones popped a pass off the ground for Graham to jog over.
Italy looked stunned. Garbisi tried to take some pressure off his side by pinning the Scots down in their own 22 with a high kick – but the pace at which Townsend’s team moved the ball was simply too quick for Franco Smith’s men to cope with.
Van Der Merwe chewed up ground down the left before passing to Hogg. His immediate offload to Jones caught Italy by surprise, with the Glasgow centre charging through a huge gap for another oh-so easy try and the bonus point before the half-hour mark had even been reached.
The half-time whistle brought merciful respite for Italy – but it was only brief, as Cherry scored his second with a carbon copy of his first, peeling off the maul before diving for the line from close range.
Italy’s troubles worsened again as Sebastian Negri was given a stint in the bin for a deliberate knock-on, with Steele – so impressive with his rapid tempo around the breakdown – this time capitalising as he followed Johnson’s quick dart towards the line to crawl over for try number six on 52 minutes.
By the time Negri was back on, Mori had already headed past him as he was also sin-binned for a tip tackle on Hogg.
And the tries continued to flood in. Johnson got a richly deserved score with 15 minutes left as Scotland took a quick tap penalty, while Van Der Merwe added his second in the 71st minute, powering through the Italian ranks like a bowling ball to score from halfway after Ali Price’s initial break.