SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Scotland helped new coach Gregor Townsend get off to a perfect start by easing to a comprehensive 34-13 victory over an inexperienced Italy side in the first test of their June tour at the Singapore National Stadium on Saturday.
The Scots made light of losing three experienced players to British and Irish Lions duty in New Zealand with hooker Ross Ford leading the way with a brace of tries after the break as Singapore hosted a Tier One test match for the first time.
“It was very humid but we thought it was going to be worse. Happy to play some good rugby in tough conditions,” Scotland captain John Barclay said in a pitch-side interview.
“We scored some good tries, let in a couple, but we’re pleased as it was our first outing in a few weeks.”
Scotland made good on a pre-match promise of a fast start and forced the Italians into desperate defending in the first five minutes through quick and expansive passing as they probed for an opening.
Their ambition was soon rewarded when flyhalf Finn Russell slotted over a penalty to open the scoring but Italy pegged them back almost immediately when Tommaso Allan kicked from long range after the Scots had infringed at a ruck.
Scotland were dominating possession but unable to capitalise on good field position due to poor offloads and a lack of discipline, while Italy were content to soak up the pressure and look to trouble their opponents on the counter-attack.
Italy continued to give away penalties but Scotland persisted with opting for attacking set-pieces and a couple of moments of brilliance in the final two minutes of the half enabled Townsend’s men to pull clear.
Scrumhalf Ali Price scored the first try when he fooled the defence with a dummied pass and dived over in the corner before winger Tim Visser hauled down an exquisite chip-kick and stretched to touch down as he fell to the ground.
Fullback Duncan Taylor added the conversion for a 15-3 halftime lead and Scotland stormed out of the blocks after the break, immediately tallying another seven points when Ford burrowed over from a driving maul and Russell added the extras.
Italy were looking ragged and after debut lock Dean Budd was sin-binned for persistent infringements, hooker Ford added his second try after a well-worked passing move as Scotland ran away with what had rapidly transformed into a one-sided contest.
Italy briefly stemmed the flow with an intercept try finished off by centre Michele Campagnaro in the 66th minute but their ill-discipline returned when replacement back rower Abraham Steyn was sin-binned for a dangerous tip-tackle.
Right wing Damian Hoyland capitalised on the man advantage by rounding off a sweeping move to touch down in the corner with five minutes remaining before Italy wing Angelo Esposito completed the scoring with a consolation try out wide.
Both sides will complete their tours with matches away to Australia and Fiji in the next two weeks.
Editing by Ed Osmond