Six Nations: Blair Kinghorn scores hat-trick as Scotland beat Italy
|Six Nations: Scotland v Italy|
|Scotland (12) 33|
|Tries: Kinghorn (3), Hogg, Harris Cons: Laidlaw (3), Russell|
|Italy (3) 20|
|Tries: Palazzani, Padovani, Esposito Con: Allan Pen: Allan|
Blair Kinghorn scored a hat-trick as Scotland beat Italy to record a seventh consecutive home Six Nations victory.
The hosts trailed to a Tommaso Allan penalty, but wing Kinghorn finished off two imaginative first-half moves as the hosts asserted their authority.
Stuart Hogg touched down a Finn Russell grubber, before Kinghorn jinked through for his sixth try in eight Tests.
Chris Harris crossed before Guglielmo Palazzani, Edoardo Padovani and Angelo Esposito scored late consolation tries.
It was a disappointing conclusion to a bonus-point win for Gregor Townsend's side, who played the last 10 minutes with 14 men after prop Simon Berghan was yellow-carded.
But the victory still marks just the third time in 20 attempts that Scotland have won a Six Nations opener.
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Lack of reward for one-sidedness
Scotland's dominance, if not their sharp decision-making, started early and never, ever let up. The hosts could have - and should have - scored twice in the opening five minutes, big and handsome overlaps being ignored and opportunities wasted as a result.
Greig Laidlaw missed the first one, opting to go himself instead of finding Jamie Ritchie outside him. Kinghorn wasted the second. The wing, who made amends in a thunderous way later on, had Stuart Hogg and Tommy Seymour with him and failed to spot either of them.
In the middle of all of this, Grant Gilchrist plonked the ball on the Italian line but got done for a double movement.
Bizarre, then, that Italy took the lead with an Allan penalty, but that was a short-lived lead. The mismatch played out soon enough.
For much of the day, Scotland used their kicking game to pin Italy back in their own 22, and then put fierce pressure on the visitors as they attempted to exit. At times, the variety in Scotland's attack bamboozled the visitors.
The rewards were initially slow to appear on the scoreboard, but Kinghorn got the process started in the 12th minute. Italy lost control of ruck ball and Scotland made them pay, Russell spotting Kinghorn alone on the left wing. The fly-half's cross-kick was precise and the wing darted over.
Scotland lost Sam Skinner straight away, Josh Strauss coming on in his place with Ryan Wilson moving to blind-side. Strauss showed up well.
A second score came at the beginning of the second quarter, a Tommaso Castello fumble near his own posts gifting the Scots a scrum. From there, it was all about the home team slicing through impetuous and porous Italian defence.
From right to left, Laidlaw shifted the point of the attack from the back of the scrum. Russell ran a wraparound play with Sam Johnson, who was terrific on his debut. Huw Jones' decoy run took away some Italian defenders, Russell took away another, Hogg took away three more when he got on the ball, and then got his pass way to Kinghorn.
The wing ran it in and Laidlaw converted and Scotland led 12-3. It stayed that way until half-time, which was a surprise given the one-sidedness of the game and the non-existence of the Italians as an attacking force.
Scots pour on pain, then switch off
Scotland poured on the pain after the break. A set-play off a line-out and Seymour's scything break were the catalyst for the third try. With a penalty advantage, Russell grubbered for Hogg, who got there a millimetre ahead of Esposito. The conversion made it 19-3.
Kinghorn's hat-trick came soon after, Ritchie running a gorgeous line to send Italy scrambling again. Laidlaw fed it on to Kinghorn, who dummied his way through a wretchedly soft visiting defence. For a wing who probably would not have been in the team had it not been for Sean Maitland's injury, it was a hell of a moment and was Scotland's first Six Nations hat-trick.
You have got to go all the way back to March 1989 and Iwan Tukalo to find Scotland's last treble in this competition, back when there were just the five teams.
A coruscating Hogg break was the spark for Scotland's fifth try. Hogg took Italy to the cleaners and found support in Russell and Strauss who put Harris over. Game done at 33-3.
What happened next was a Scottish shambles and an Italian freak show. Scotland emptied the bench, Berghan got binned, and the wheels fell off in the most gobsmacking way.
Palazzani sniped in from close range in the 71st minute, Padovani ran in an easy second, and more chaos in Scotland's defence gave Esposito a third.
Nobody was home at the back for Scotland. Nobody was switched-on. Three Italian tries in seven minutes took some of the feel-good out of it for the home crowd, who were not quite sure what to do, or think, at the end.
Scotland: Hogg; Seymour, Jones, Johnson, Kinghorn; Russell, Laidlaw; Dell, McInally, Nel, Toolis, Gilchrist, Skinner, Ritchie, Wilson.
Replacements: Kerr (for McInally, 63), Bhatti (for Dell, 58), Berghan (for Nel, 50), Graham (for Wilson, 72), Strauss (for Skinner, 13), Price (for Laidlaw, 58), Hastings (for Russell, 76), Harris for Jones, 58).
Italy: Hayward; Esposito, Morisi, Castello, Campagnaro; Allan, Palazzani; Lovotti, Ghiraldini, Ferrari, Sisi, Budd, Negri, Steyn, Parisse.
Replacements: Bigi (for Ghiraldini, 59), Traore (for Lovotti, 51) Pasquali (for Ferrari, 52), Tuivaiti (for Negri, 58), Ruzza (for Budd, 51), Benvenuti (for Morisi, 78), McKinley (for Allan, 26-35, then 71), Padovani (for Castello, 48).
Referee: Luke Pearce (England)
Touch judges: Mathieu Raynal (France) & Shuhei Kubo (Japan)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)