Scotland give departing Cotter big 6 Nations win over Italy
EDINBURGH, Scotland (AP) — Scotland gave departing coach Vern Cotter a successful send-off by beating Italy 29-0 in the final round of the Six Nations on Saturday.
The Azzurri were left with five straight losses for the third time in the last four years.
Finn Russell, Matt Scott, Tim Visser and Tommy Seymour — all members of the Scots' improved back division — scored the tries in a bonus-point victory at Murrayfield. But their third win, their most in 11 years, wasn't enough to lift them above fourth place on points difference.
Cotter — a tough New Zealander who rarely shows public emotion — was in tears after the match as Scotland fans cheered for their coach, who didn't have his contract renewed after three years in the role and is joining French team Montpellier for the start of next season.
"He's a good man and has made a fantastic contribution to Scottish rugby," Scotland captain John Barclay said.
"We are very proud of what we have achieved but there is more from the group. We have to kick on after Vern leaves."
Both losses were away, to France and last week to England, a 61-21 defeat that cost Scotland a shot at the title.
"We had to set the record straight after last week," Barclay said.
Italy was already sure of the wooden spoon for the 12th time in 17 seasons since joining the expanded Six Nations in 2000, but failed to score a point against Scotland for the first time.
Scotland kept the Italians from scoring after weathering 10 minutes of sustained pressure from the visitors when Barclay was in the sin-bin from the 49th. In that period, Italy botched an overlap on the right wing when Angelo Esposito was held up before Edoardo Padovani knocked on.
On a bleak day for Italy, flyhalf Carlo Canna missed all three of his goalkicks in the first half.
Scotland, on the contrary, was much more ruthless, despite losing center Huw Jones — a scorer of two tries against England — to a leg injury early on.
Russell received scrumhalf Ali Price's pass and squeezed between two defenders to scramble over in the left corner. The second try arrived just before halftime when Price's chip to the right wing was tapped down by Hogg, allowing Scott to ground.
Barclay was sin-binned after he infringed at an Italian maul, but Italy couldn't capitalize.
Scotland sealed maximum points in the final 18 minutes when Visser grounded after Italy center Tommaso Benvenuti failed to collect Hogg's chip through, and Seymour was sent through unchallenged down the right wing.
Cotter typically didn't want to talk about his contribution to the turnaround in Scotland's fortunes during his tenure, but he was leaving satisfied.
"I'm very pleased, coming from a game at Twickenham that didn't fall our way, to keep a team try-less," Cotter said. "The three wins is great. It's a reflection of the work these guys put in.
"Those records are nice. It was nice to be able to finish at home with the bonus point. It wasn't always perfect, but we got there in the end. Job done."