Darcy Graham marked his return to the international fold with a double as an experimental Scotland side defeated Italy 25-13 in Saturday’s World Cup warm-up match at Murrayfield.
The 26-year-old Edinburgh wing missed the entire Six Nations with a knee injury but – after scoring a hat-trick in his last match for the Scots against Argentina in November – he picked up where he left off with a couple of clinical touchdowns to put the Azzurri to the sword.
Replacement Josh Bayliss sealed the victory with the Scots’ third try in the last play of the match after Montanna Ioane’s score just after the hour had given the Italians hope.
Graham was one of the few established starters in Gregor Townsend’s XV as he allowed several of his key players the weekend off ahead of the upcoming double-header against World Cup hosts France.
Glasgow centre Stafford McDowall was given his international debut while Glasgow prop Murphy Walker and Edinburgh fly-half Ben Healy – both previously capped – made their first starts.
It looked like it might be a difficult afternoon for the Scots when the visitors instantly got themselves on the front foot and had their hosts penned inside their own half for the opening five minutes.
However, the hosts burst into life after six minutes when Healy, working off a turnover, kicked a ball into space for Graham to chase down but the rapid Edinburgh wing was thwarted by some impressive defending just as he looked set to get himself clear.
The same two players combined as the hosts made the breakthrough in the 13th minute. Healy again kicked wide to the right, picking out Graham who was already beyond the try-line as he received the ball before helping himself to a straightforward touchdown. Healy was unable to add the extras as his conversion attempt went wide.
However, the Azzurri managed to get themselves in front by half-time courtesy of a couple of penalties from Tommaso Allan, the Harlequins stand-off who has a Scottish father as well as an uncle capped nine times by Scotland in the early 1990s.
Allan reduced the deficit with a close-range effort in the 26th minute and then in the last action of a largely underwhelming first half the number 10 sent another kick soaring between the posts from inside Scotland’s 10-metre line.
Scotland got themselves back in front eight minutes after the interval when Healy pinged over a penalty. And in the 55th minute, Graham scored his second try of the match when he received a reverse pass from Ali Price and bounded over the line. Healy was accurate with the conversion as the Scots opened up a 15-6 advantage.
Italy got back into the match just after the hour, however, when Ioane went over on the left after a lovely pass from Allan, who duly converted.
Leicester lock Cam Henderson became the second Scotland debutant of the afternoon when he replaced Scott Cummings and the hosts regained control when Healy kicked another penalty in the 74th minute.
The Scots finished on a high note, with substitute Bayliss scoring his first international try – converted by the impressive Healy – in the last action of the match.