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Graham at the double as Scotland get the better of Italy

Graham at the double as Scotland get the better of Italy

Darcy Graham

Two tries from Darcy Graham fired Scotland to a 25-13 win over Italy at Scottish Gas Murrayfield to make a fine start to the Summer Nations Series.

The winger missed the entirety of the 2023 Guinness Six Nations through injury, but showed that he has lost none of his predatory instincts.

His first try was a simple finish from Ben Healy’s cross-kick, before a diving effort gave Scotland some breathing space in the second half.

Montanna Ioane kept Italy in the hunt with a try on the hour on his return to the side but Healy’s penalty and Josh Bayliss’ try in the final minute wrapped up the win.

In many ways, the game was reminiscent of the last meeting of the teams in March, with Scotland leading throughout and then clinching victory with a final try at the death.

The difference was that both teams had named experimental sides, with Rory Darge and Federico Ruzza leading their respective sides.

And while Italy showed early intent, Scotland’s defence held firm.

The hosts, meanwhile, turned down a couple of early shots at goal to test their attacking structures. A first attacking lineout was stolen but the second set up the opening try. After a rolling maul was dealt with by the Italian defence, the ball was shifted to the backs, where Healy spotted a lack of cover out wide, putting boot to ball for Graham to race through and dot down under no pressure.

Healy missed the conversion and it was Italy who scored next, a good chase from the impressive Manuel Zuliani setting up field position. When Scotland strayed offside, the Azzurri took the points, Tommaso Allan making it 5-3.

Graham would have fancied a second before the break when he was put away down the right, but Tommaso Menoncello showed his pace to get across and tackle the winger into touch.

And Italy went into half-time in the lead thanks to another penalty from Allan on the stroke of half-time which made it 6-5.

Scotland started the second half on the front foot and worked their way into a strong position only to waste the chance when George Turner knocked on from a quick tap penalty.

Healy had caught the eye in the first half with a couple of booming kicks for touch and he followed that up with a wonderful 50:22 after Allan had kicked loosely.

Scotland could not capitalise but did hit the front when they earned a scrum penalty – the decision to take the three through Healy an indication of how tight the game was becoming.

Italy pushed to reclaim their lead but some impressive interventions, notably from Chris Harris with a turnover in his 22, kept them at bay.

And when Graham forced a five-metre scrum with a brilliant chase, he was rewarded with his second. A clever move saw Ali Price go one way before an inside ball for the winger to dive between two big forwards and over. With Healy’s conversion, Scotland led 15-6.

However Italy hit back immediately. The introduction of Alessandro Garbisi helped them pick up the tempo and as they secured quick ball, eventually Scotland ran out of numbers and Ioane was able to dive over in the left corner. Allan converted from the touchline to make it 15-13.

The scrum battle was ebbing one way and then the other, but a big shove from the Scots allowed Healy to make it 18-13 with six minutes to go.

Italy had a late chance to salvage a win, but an attacking lineout went astray and Scotland had seized control at scrum-time, forcing another penalty that allowed them to clear their lines and play out the final minutes in Italian territory.

They took advantage, shifting play to the left before coming back right where Bayliss showed his athleticism to evade the tackle of Ioane and get over for Scotland’s third try. Healy converted from the touchline to cap off a fine first start, named Player of the Match for his performance.

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