EDINBURGH: Blair Kinghorn became the first Scotland player to score a hat-trick of tries in the Six Nations and its five-team predecessor for 30 years in an opening 33-20 win at home to Italy last night.
The Scots led 33-3 with 10 minutes left, but the Azzurri avoided a morale-sapping thrashing with three late tries.
Edinburgh wing Kinghorn scored twice in the first-half and once after the interval to bridge a three decade gap back to March 4, 1989, when Iwan Tukalo claimed three tries in a Five Nations win over Ireland at Murrayfield.
Full-back Stuart Hogg and replacement centre Chris Harris also crossed as Scotland won a seventh successive home game in the Six Nations, their longest such run in the championship since 1975.
“We took our chances when they were available and it was brilliant to get a couple of tries out of it,” Kinghorn told the BBC.
Reigning champions Ireland are sure to pose a sterner test next Saturday but coach Gregor Townsend had reason to be happy with a seventh successive Scottish victory against Italy, who line up against Wales in Rome next Saturday looking to end a record run of 18 successive defeats in the Six Nations.
Italy coach Conor O’Shea and captain Sergio Parisse, making a record 66th Six Nations appearance, were left pondering what might have been after scrum-half Guglielmo Palazzani and wings Edoardo Padovani and Angelo Esposito all scored tries in a late attacking flurry.
“Against quality opposition like Ireland, we can’t release a test match like that,” said Townsend. “We were well in control and just gave Italy momentum by being less aggressive and slipping off tackles.” Meanwhile outstanding No 8 Parisse said Italy had left it too late to turn the tide of the match.
“With possession we are dangerous and can score tries but Scotland deserved the win,” he insisted. “We let Scotland have too much possession in the first half at this level.”
O’Shea was forced to change his starting XV before kick-off, injured scrum-half Tito Tebaldi making way for Palazzani and his team were on the back foot from the start of a one-sided opening half.