Captain Stuart Hogg played an influential role to help Scotland claim a hard-fought 17-0 win over Italy in Rome on Saturday.
It was clear to see why this was a basement battle between the two bottom-ranked sides in the tournament. The match was error-riddled, with neither side able to seize control.
Ultimately, it was Scotland who held their nerve to notch up an eighth straight win in this fixture dating back to 2015. It has also been seven years since the Azzurri last won a Test at the Stadio Olimpico.
It was a scrappy first half, with both spurning scoring chances due to a lack of cohesion and precision.
The visitors would eventually unlock Italy’s defence, though. When a poor clearance kick from Carlo Canna failed to find touch, the Scottish back three launched a scintillating counter-attack during which fullback Hogg executed an audacious dummy and a lethal left-footed goosestep before sliding over for the opening try and a slender 5-0 lead by half time.
With the exception of a more equally shared stake in possession and territory, it was much of the same in the second half.
Outside centre Chris Harris powered over in the 47th minute to double Scotland’s advantage after a patient 17-phase attack inside the 22.
But the action faded as the same errors of the first half morphed into the second, resulting in increased frustration for Scotland and desperation for Italy.
Looking to make up lost ground on the top four in the competition, Scotland went in search of two more tries for a much-needed bonus point, but stubborn defence by Italy repelled their efforts.
However, the hosts suffered a telling blow when hooker Federico Zanni was sent off for a dangerous tackle that went past the horisontal. And yet, the visitors missed out on the sought-after bonus-point win as they could only muster up one more score late in the game.
This is the second time in this campaign that Italy have been kept scoreless. They lost 42-0 to Wales in round one.
Scotland will host France at Murrayfield next while Italy will face Ireland in Dublin.
Scotland – Tries: Stuart Hogg, Chris Harris, Adam Hastings. Conversion: Hastings.
Italy – 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Mattia Bellini, 13 Luca Morisi, 12 Carlo Canna, 11 Matteo Minozzi, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Callum Braley, 8 Abraham Steyn, 7 Sebastian Negri, 6 Jake Polledri, 5 Niccolò Cannone, 4 Alessandro Zanni, 3 Giosuè Zilocchi, 2 Luca Bigi (c), 1 Andrea Lovotti.
Subs: 16 Federico Zani, 17 Danilo Fischetti, 18 Marco Riccioni, 19 Marco Lazzaroni, 20 Dean Budd, 21 Giovanni Licata, 22 Guglielmo Palazzani, 23 Giulio Bisegni.
Scotland – 15 Stuart Hogg (c), 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Sam Johnson, 11 Blair Kinghorn, 10 Adam Hastings, 9 Ali Price, 8 Magnus Bradbury, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Jamie Ritchie, 5 Scott Cummings, 4 Ben Toolis, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Stuart McInally, 1 Rory Sutherland.
Subs: 16 Fraser Brown, 17 Allan Dell, 18 Willem Nel, 19 Grant Gilchrist, 20 Matt Fagerson, 21 George Horne, 22 Rory Hutchinson, 23 Byron McGuigan.