6N: Italy reaches new low by losing to Scotland 33-20

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              Scotland's Tommy Seymour, left, tackles Italy's Angelo Esposito during the Six Nations rugby union international between Scotland and Italy, at the Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh, Scotland, Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019. (AP Photo/Scott Heppell)
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EDINBURGH, Scotland (AP) — Italy reached a new low in its woeful Six Nations history by losing at Scotland 33-20 for an 18th straight defeat in the championship, breaking a century-old record on Saturday.

Blair Kinghorn scored a hat trick of tries as the Scots recorded a bonus-point win at Murrayfield to start a tournament in which they are expected to be competitive for the first time in this century.

Italy, already, look consigned to a fourth consecutive wooden spoon for finishing last in the standings. With this loss, the Azzurri left behind the France team of 1911-20 that delivered 17 consecutive losses in what was then the Five Nations.

Six Nations chiefs continue to dismiss calls to enlarge the competition to seven teams, perhaps adding a 13th-ranked Georgia team that is two places higher than Italy in the world order, or to introduce promotion and relegation to give motivation for the lower-ranked European countries.

In those 18 straight Six Nations defeats, the Italians are averaging more than 40 points conceded per match.

They made the score more respectable in the Scottish capital by scoring three tries in the final nine minutes — through Guglielmo Palazzani, Edoardo Padovani and Angelo Esposito — when Scotland was down to 14 players following the sin-binning of replacement prop Simon Berghan. Still, it was hardly the way for Sergio Parisse to celebrate playing in a record 66th Six Nations game.

Scotland won a seventh straight home match in this tournament for the first time since a run of eight victories in 1975.

Kinghorn was the main reason for that, the winger scoring Scotland’s first hat trick in the competition since Iwan Tukalo against Ireland in the Five Nations 30 years ago.

After Tommaso Allan gave Italy an early lead with a penalty, Scotland responded as Finn Russell floated a perfect crossfield kick into the hands of Kinghorn, who darted across the line unchallenged.

Kinghorn had more work to do nine minutes later but the result was the same as he again pounced in the left-hand corner. Tommaso Castello’s knock-on gave the Scots a scrum five yards out from which they quickly worked the ball out wide through the hands of Russell and impressive debutant center Sam Johnson. Stuart Hogg did Kinghorn no favors with a terrible pass that landed under his feet but the pick-up and finish was impeccable.

Greig Laidlaw, who missed his first conversion, nailed the extras from out wide but Scotland failed to keep their foot on the gas and that gave the Italians some much-needed respite as they held on for the halftime whistle trailing 12-3.

However, the Dark Blues’ show of mercy lasted just seven minutes into the second period as Hogg added the third try. Winger Tommy Seymour carved the Azzurri apart with a marauding charge and as the visitors scrambled for cover, Russell dinked a grubber in behind. The race was on between Hogg and Esposito and it was the Scotland fullback who applied the all-important downward pressure with his fingertips.

Laidlaw’s conversion opened up a 16-point lead but the bonus point was the prize Scotland was really after and it arrived in the 54th as Kinghorn wrapped up his hat trick.

Russell did brilliantly to scoop up a wayward pass from Josh Strauss. Ritchie then rammed forward with another impressive run before Laidlaw handed off for Kinghorn, who slid over yet again.

Replacement back Chris Harris then claimed his maiden test try just after the hour mark as good work by Ben Toolis and Strauss left Italy creaking again.

Some of the shine was taken off Scotland’s win as they fell asleep in the final 10 minutes, however, following Berghan’s yellow card.