Scotland coach reckons Dark Blues can now play with freedom

Tommy Seymour is mobbed after his late score secured the victory in Rome
Tommy Seymour is mobbed after his late score secured the victory in Rome
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Jason O’Halloran hopes Scotland can shake off their mental shackles after finally halting their long RBS Six Nations losing streak.

The Scotand backs coach watched his side stun Italy with two early tries before Tommy Seymour’s late score put the seal on a 36-20 victory in Rome.

It was the Scots’ first win in the competition for two years and killed off fears of a dreaded tenth straight loss.

Scotland had high hopes entering the Championship following their encouraging display at last year’s World Cup, but O’Halloran admitted he was worried the team’s self-belief had plummeted after losing their opening two games to England and Wales.

But with that run of misery now behind Vern Cotter’s team, O’Halloran wants to see Scotland march into their next clash with France at BT Murrayfield in two weeks with a confident swagger.

The Kiwi said: “Hopefully a win will liberate us a bit. We can get rid of a few of those mental demons we’ve been carrying around with us. We now have some positive mental images to draw from after Saturday’s win.

“We were under the pump at times but came through with a decent margin of victory in Rome, in front of a big Italian crowd. We will be able to use that experience going forward.”

Flankers John Barclay and John Hardie both dived over for Scotland inside the opening 17 minutes and skipper Greig Laidlaw’s near-flawless kicking display with 21 points from a possible 24 ensured the Azzurri were largely held at bay.

There were concerns when Leonardo Ghiraldini and Marco Fuser crossed for the hosts either side of the interval, with the second coming after stand-off Finn Russell had been sent to the bin.

But Seymour’s late score – at a time when Scotland were again a man light after prop WP Nel’s yellow card – put the result beyond doubt, allowing Cotter’s group to breath a huge sigh of relief as a repeat of last year’s losing clean sweep was avoided.

“We’re really happy with the win,” said O’Halloran. “The pleasing thing for us is that we still realise we can be better than that.

“But I thought the character of the team shone through, especially after we suffered two yellow cards but still came through with a good margin of victory. It’s something to be really proud of.

“I think we thought it was going to be easy after the way we scored twice so early.

“But we were then probably guilty of playing a bit too much rugby in the lead up to their first try. We got a little expansive a little too early.

“So there is probably a lesson there for us that when you get a lead you need to force the opposition to play out of their own zone.”

And O’Halloran insisted the Scots will not get carried away with one result.

Scotland’s last Six Nations victory before Saturday was also recorded in the Eternal City but they allowed the confidence boost of that result to slip away as the defeats piled up.

“We can’t allow that to happen again,” said O’Halloran. “It’s good we follow this match up against France. We were really disappointed with how we performed in our last home game against England so there’s an extra motivation to play well.

“There has always been expectation on the back of a pretty successful World Cup, so it’s something we’ve been having to deal with ever since.

“All we can focus on is trying to get better for the next game against France.

“If we stay in the here and now and not focus too much on the future, it will be key to achieving success with this group.

“After England, we owe our fans a performance. I think we have to forget about the outcome because I don’t think it helps us mentally. We can’t focus on what’s going to happen in the 80th minute. We need to build those minutes in between.

“You have to have confidence going into games but we will have to be better than we were against Italy, let me put it that way.”

Scorers: Italy: Tries: Ghiraldini, Fuser. Cons: Haimona (2). Pens: Haimona (2)

Scotland: Tries: Barclay, Hardie, Seymour. Cons: Laidlaw (3). Pens: Laidlaw (5)

Italy: Odiete; Sarto, Campagnaro, Garcia, Bellini; Haimona, Gori; Lovotti (Zanusso 57), Ghiraldini, Cittadini (Castrogiovanni 57), Fuser, Furno (Bernabo 37), Minto (Van Schalkwyk 67), Zanni, Parisse (Capt)

Scotland: Hogg; Seymour, Bennett, Taylor, Visser (Lamont 72); Russell, Laidlaw; (Capt); Dickinson, Ford (McInally 64), Nel, R Gray (Swinson 79), J Gray, Barclay (Low 79), Hardie, Wilson (Strauss 67)