Gregor Townsend was full of praise for his captain fantastic after Stuart Hogg’s scintillating try lit the touch paper for an exhilarating 17-0 victory in Rome.
The desire to win in Italy was huge for Scotland after defeats to Ireland and England, and that was evident right from the off at the Stadio Olimpico as Townsend’s men piled on the pressure and struck gold with Hogg’s slaloming early try.
The Azzurri were typically defiant but the Scots struck again in the second half through centre Chris Harris before rounding things off late on with Adam Hastings’s score.
“It was a world-class try (Hogg’s) and he looked lively as well, there were a couple of other occasions where he was almost through,” commented Townsend after the win.
“I thought his decision-making at the back on when to have a run and when to put more kick pressure on Italy was very good.
“It’s brilliant that he can sit here now as captain with a win, but also having played a big part in that with a great try.
“Me and Stuart discussed how there would be a tough time as captain, any Scotland captain will go through a period of wins and losses, tough times like speaking to the media after a defeat, picking up the players on a Monday after a defeat.
“He was well aware of that and his lowest point was in the press conference after the England game but he went back to Exeter and that was good for him.
“He had to train that Monday and Tuesday after playing two Test matches back to back, he was really professional, full of energy, and scored a great try for them, and then for us again here.”
A crucial period in the contest in Rome came between the scores of Harris on 46 minutes and Hastings on 78, with the Scottish defence pounding back Italian attacker after Italian attacker.
Scotland’s defence, organised by coach Steve Tandy, had only conceded two tries prior to Round 3 and took it up a notch against the Azzurri, led by Guinness Six Nations Man of the Match Hamish Watson.
Townsend continued: “Nothing is more pleasing than not conceding. When you come away from home against any team and you don’t concede a try and don’t concede a point you’ve put in a very good defensive performance.
“The way the game at times was played, there were mistakes from both teams. So you’ve got to take huge encouragement of how we scrambled and got back in defence.
“At times we looked really comfortable and we did have to work hard to stop line-breaks when we’d made an error or Italy had some good play.
“That effort and that togetherness – and then to get the turnovers as well when Italy were attacking was really pleasing.”