Blair Kinghorn scored a hat-trick of tries as Scotland defeated Italy 26-14 at Murrayfield on Saturday after surviving an Azzurri fightback.
Victory on the last day of the tournament all but assured Scotland of a third-place finish after wins over England and Wales were followed by losses to title contenders France and Ireland.
But this result meant a luckless Italy had lost all five of their matches this Six Nations despite flashes of brilliance in attack, with the Azzurri having now won just one of their last 42 fixtures in the Championship.
“When you win a Test match it’s always a good feeling,” Scotland captain Jamie Ritchie told the BBC.
“Italy have deserved more from this tournament, they’ve played a lot of good rugby and they put us under huge amounts of pressure. I’m delighted we won that.”
The back-row forward, turning to Kinghorn, added: “Blair did really well, he’s been brilliant all week. He’s been brilliant throughout the tournament. You’ve seen that when he’s come off the bench for us. He’s brought impact and tempo.”
Scotland led 19-6 early in the second half before Italy reduced the deficit to five points.
But an Italy knock-on near the posts in the last minute gave Scotland a scrum from which they counter-attacked with Kinghorn, starting at fly-half in place of the injured Finn Russell, sprinting away to complete his treble.
Scotland, also without full-back Stuart Hogg because of injury, fell behind to a Tommaso Allan penalty after Italy squandered a potential try following Juan Ignacio Brex’s poor pass in front of Simone Gesi.
But the hosts hit back with a remarkable try in the 13th minute.
Huw Jones powered through midfield and rounded Alessandro Fusco before firing a flat pass out to Duhan van der Merwe.
The giant Scotland wing then surged forward before leaping over the try-line and somehow, while still airborne, grounding the ball before his feet crashed into touch as he evaded the challenge of fly-half Paolo Garbisi.
Kinghorn failed to convert the acrobatic try and Italy led 6-5 when Allan landed his second penalty soon afterwards.
But the match swung back in Scotland’s favour when they scored a second try moments after Italy were reduced to 14 men after prop Danilo Fischetti was sent to the sin-bin.
Scrum-half Ben White found Kinghorn and the No 10, with centre Sione Tuipulotu’s clever dummy run distracting the Italy defence, stepped off his left foot to score a try.
Kinghorn converted his own effort and Scotland led 12-6 — the half-time score.
And that advantage was extended to 13 points early in the second half when Kinghorn grabbed his second try.
Patient phase play by Scotland’s forwards eventually sapped the energy out of Italy’s committed defence, with White’s pass to Kinghorn allowing the stand-off to stretch over the line for a try her also converted.
But from 19-6 behind, Italy rallied to set up a tense finish.
Garbisi exploited the space behind Scotland wing Kyle Steyn with an excellently weighted grubber kick chased down by full-back Allan—the son of a Scottish father and Italian mother—for an unconverted try.
But Garbisi was on target with a penalty to leave Scotland just five points ahead with 10 minutes left before Kinghorn broke Italian hearts with a bonus-point try.
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