Scotland 33-20 Italy: Kinghorn hat-trick fires Scots to win
Bonus point victory seals satisfying start to the Six Nations for Gregor Townsend.
A hat-trick of Blair Kinghorn tries ensured a bonus point start to the 2019 Six Nations for Scotland, but they weathered a late Italy rally to take some shine off the full-time scoreline.
Scotland showed their intent after just three minutes as Greig Laidlaw fed Stuart Hogg on the blind side. His chip forward to Jamie Ritchie was bundled into touch at the five metre line.
The resulting lineout maul saw Grant Gilchrist penalised for a double movement as he went to ground the ball and the try disallowed by TMO.
A fifth minute line break from Kinghorn had Scotland knocking on the door again but the Italian scramble defence denied the Edinburgh winger, and the visitors then worked well to turn the ball over ten metres out.
Italy were rewarded for their hard work in defence when they won a penalty 22 metres out as Ritchie tackled Sergio Parisse dangerously.
Tommaso Allan kicked through the posts to open the scoring.
Scotland roared back though as a superb counter-ruck in the 11th minute won the ball back in the 22 and an inch-perfect cross field kick from Finn Russell sent Kinghorn scampering over the whitewash at the left corner.
Laidlaw pulled the conversion wide and Scotland led 5-3.
Sam Skinner was immediately replaced by Josh Strauss, the Exeter Chiefs man hobbling off after picking up an injury.
Scotland were gifted a huge chance after 19 minutes when Tommaso Castello spilled a pass right in front of his own posts.
A strong scrum from the hosts let Laidlaw and Hogg go through the hands before Kinghorn grabbed the ball from the turf and flew over at the exact same spot on the left wing.
Laidlaw converted from out wide and Scotland led 12-3.
Referee Luke Pearce from England was growing frustrated with the unsteady scrummaging of both sides as the match hit a first half lull, and the 40 minutes elapsed without either side further troubling the scoreboard.
The Scots came out hot and exerted a solid seven minutes of pressure before Italy finally buckled. Russell, playing a penalty advantage, grubbered through for Hogg to touch down with a finger tip. The ever-reliable Laidlaw added the extras from the tee.
A Guglielmo Palazzini pick and go apart, the Azzurri were unable to make a mark on the dark blue defence, and Gregor Townsend's men smelled a bonus point.
It arrived on 54 minutes when Russell sent Ritchie through a hole and he offloaded to Laidlaw. The captain fed Kinghorn who danced through the despairing defensive line for his hat-trick.
Townsend began to unload the bench and the fresh legs brought further impetus. Hogg burst into life on the hour mark as he stepped the defence inside out to break clear. Ben Toolis was halted short but Scotland recycled quickly and fed Chris Harris to score his first try for his country.
Russell converted in the absence of the substituted Laidlaw and a rout was on the cards at 33-3.
Conor Shea's team then seized their first spell of pressure of the day as a succession of mauls drew penalties and the Scotland defence creaked. Four quick penalties saw Simon Berghan pay the price with a yellow card.
Straight off the sin binning the Azzurri finally muscled the ball over under the posts courtesy of scrum half Palazzani.
Hogg thought he had his second try on 72 minutes when he ran in from his own half, but Ali Price had been pinged for obstruction in the build-up.
It was Italy who were going strongest in the closing stages and they got a second try of the day when Edoardo Padovani's perfect support line took him over untouched with five minutes to play.
Ian McKinlay's conversion attempt was wide to keep the scores at 33-15.
They continued to exploit their numerical advantage and got a third three minutes later when Michele Campagnaro found himself acres of space on the left wing then fed Angelo Esposito on the overlap to run in under the posts.
It was too little to late after the Scots' blistering earlier attacking play, but provided some cause of concern as attention now turns to the visit of reigning champions Ireland at Murrayfield next Saturday.
Scotland player ratings: Kinghorn the star
Stuart Hogg 7 - Quietly dangerous until igniting in the 60th minute to break the Italian line and set up the fifth try.
Tommy Seymour 6 - Was on the fringes of the game but worked hard to get more involved. In a feast or famine spell of form just now.
Huw Jones 6 - Showed glimpses of his strike threat and worked hard without his usual end result. Encouraging performance after a spell without match action.
Sam Johnson 8 - Staked his claim to hold on the 12 jersey with a superb debut. The Australia-born centre was a running threat and delivered consistent dangerous deliveries from hand.
Blair Kinghorn 9 - The flying back showed his speed and power throughout and finished two first half tries with aplomb before adding a third for Scotland's bonus point.
Finn Russell 8 - Looked in serene control as he carried his strong Racing 92 form into the test arena. Kept the Italians guessing from hand and boot.
Greig Laidlaw 8 - The little general dictated play and missed just once from the tee. Class and leadership on display throughout his 57 minutes.
Ryan Wilson 7 - Did the dirty work and showed up well against Sergio Parisse and the dangrous Italian back-row.
Jamie Ritchie 7 - Picked up where he left off in the autumn with a solid display. A willing ball carrier, line-out option and breakdown nuisance.
Sam Skinner 4 - Forced off after just 12 minutes through injury
Grant Gilchrist 7 - Won the boiler room battle beside Toolis as they marshalled a fine line-out.
Ben Toolis 7 - In great form and one of Scotland's best operators at the set-piece. A strong afternoon's work.
WP Nel 7 - Had the better of Andrea Lovotti at scrum time, a great weapon in the set piece. Lasted 50 minutes.
Stuart McInally 7 - Hard working and strong carrying from the influential hooker, who was also perfect at the line-out. Rested after 64 minutes
Allan Dell 7 - Low on minutes lately but got through his work in the loose and never looked troubled in the scrum. Played an hour.
Replacements 5 - Fresh legs looked to have pushed the Scots on but struggled after going down to 14 men and allowed the Italians a route back after the sin-binning of Berghan.