Scotland have continued their strong form from Autumn Internationals with a resounding victory over Italy in their first match of the 2019 Six Nations.
Two tries in the first half from the impressive of Blair Kinghorn, as well as strong running from the debutant Sam Johnson and the oft impressive Stuart Hogg set the tone for the Scots, who were rarely troubled by the Italians.
Despite the positive performances from the back three, Scotland struggled in the scrum; with Italy’s strength in the pack causing significant problems for Allan Dell and in particular WP Nel, who was guilty of several collapses in the first 40 minutes.
The second half led to three more Scotland tries, led by the outstanding open-field running of Stuart Hogg, Kinghorn sealing his hattrick and Finn Russell dictating the game with his usual flair, securing the four-try bonus point to top the table as things stand.
Italy scored three consolation tries but ultimately were outclassed by a quality Scotland side.
Here is how I rated the Scotland team’s performance:
Stuart Hogg - 9
A brilliant performance from Scotland’s star 15. Such a danger in broken field, showed his searing pace and quick feet to cut open Italy’s wide channels time and again. Good finish for his try, and was somewhat unlucky to be denied a second by the referee’s whistle.
Tommy Seymour - 6
A comparatively quiet game from the Lions man. Solid under the high ball and made one particular line break of note. Outshone by his opposite wing, but a solid performance.
Huw Jones - 7
Better performance after coming under significant criticism during the autumn for his defensive displays, in particular against Wales. Always a threat with ball in hand, showed a few clever touches and offloads. Reliable for the most part in the tackle. Tougher tests will come.
Sam Johnson - 8
A very strong debut. Worked superbly with Jones and Russell, breaking numerous tackles and looking solid in the midfield.
Blair Kinghorn - 10
Hattrick hero. First Scottish player to ever score a hattrick in the Six Nations, all of Kinghorn’s tries were tremendous finishes. The third in particular was one of the highlights of the match; a deft dummy followed by a step off his left foot and a heavy fend saw him go under the posts. Man of the Match and a very bright future ahead for the 22 year old.
Finn Russell - 9
At his mercurial best. At the centre of all of Scotland’s attacks, this was vintage Finn Russell, showing off a staggering display of deft kicks and offloads. His no-look grubber for Stuart Hogg’s try was fantastic, pulled off with superb accuracy. Will be disappointed however with his side leaking three tries at the end of the match.
Greig Laidlaw - 7
A steady, calming performance as usual from Laidlaw, whose distribution was solid and made all-but-one of his kicks. Subbed on 57 mins.
Allan Dell - 6
Struggled along with his prop partner against the vastly experienced front three of Italy. Better in the second half and put in a shift around the pitch.
Stuart McInally - 6
A mixed performance. Very solid in the lineout and made his presence felt in the loose. However, really struggled in the first half in the scrum, up against Ghiraldini. Replaced after 60 mins.
WP Nel - 5
Along with Dell, really struggled first half in the scrum, collapsing 3 scrums and was pinged twice. Will be disappointed.
Ben Toolis - 6
Solid from Toolis. Always available in the loose, maybe suffered from try line fever prior to Harris’ try, failing to offload to Ali Price who was in for a score. Strong performance in the lineout.
Grant Gilchrist - 7
Busy in the loose, was denied a try in the first half by a correctly called double movement. As with his partner, faultless in the lineout.
Josh Strauss - 7
Started on the bench, was an early entrant after Sam Skinner was subbed off after 14 minutes. Strong carrying set tone for a dominant second half performance. Otherwise steady performance.
Jamie Ritchie - 8
Good performance from Ritchie, ensuring the loss of Hamish Watson wasn’t too impactful in this instance. Particularly strong in the second half, was constantly over the ball and a few big contributions in the loose, including a strong carry and offload for Kinghorn’s fourth try. Couple of timely turnovers as the game went on.
Ryan Wilson - 6
Solid performance. Key try saving tackle after a break from the Italian scrum half. Slightly wasteful in the loose, however.
Substitutes - 7
A good runout for the whole bench in this one. Chris Harris will be delighted to make a try-scoring impact whilst coming on. Berghan yellow-carded for collapsing a maul late on.