February 3, 2019 / 1:09 PM / 4 months ago

Scotland start brightly but leave coach with mixed emotions

EDINBURGH (Reuters) - Scotland scored five tries and claimed a bonus point but Saturday’s 33-20 victory over Italy at Murrayfield in their opening Six Nations game left coach Gregor Townsend with mixed emotions.

Rugby Union - Six Nations Championship - Scotland v Italy - Murrayfield, Edinburgh, Britain - February 2, 2019 Scotland's Ryan Wilson wins a lineout Action Images via Reuters/Lee Smith TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

While it was a comfortable victory, the last 10 minutes made unsettling viewing for Townsend as the hosts allowed Italy a late surge and gave up three tries.

Down to 14 men, after Simon Berghan was sent to the sin bin, the Scots suddenly went off the boil and allowed Italy to turn a 33-3 deficit into a much more respectable scoreline.

“To get the bonus point was a very good start to the Championship,” Townsend told reporters.

“I really felt that we stepped it up in that middle part of the game, really took it away from Italy with our skill set and our work-rate, so we’re delighted with that.

“Coming into the Six Nations everybody was really focused all week. I was 100 percent confident that we were going to win today; we’d trained really well all week.”

The tail-end of the encounter, however, gave Townsend cause for concern, especially with Ireland up next at Murrayfield on Saturday.

“Those last 15 minutes for us were a reminder that if we drop our focus at all then we’ll pay the price,” he said.

“We’re going to have to play for 80 minutes against the second-best team in the world, so that’ll heighten everybody’s senses and make sure we get that full performance which we’ll need to win the game.

“Feet on the ground is good for us. We started with a solid win; five tries is a credit to the players, but we know next week’s challenge is huge. We have to get the focus right immediately.”

Reporting by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Toby Davis

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