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Weir's drop goal heroics can give Scots a kick-start

YOU cannot overstate how important that final kick of Duncan Weir's was in the Stadio Olimpico yesterday.

Scotland celebrate wildly after the match-winning kick from Duncan Weir, second right Photograph: SNS
Scotland celebrate wildly after the match-winning kick from Duncan Weir, second right Photograph: SNS

The difference between a win and another near-miss is huge for Scotland and the character they showed to pull the game against Italy out of the fire was immense.

That's the key point. If this had gone the other way, it is hard to imagine the dejection that would have been hanging over the camp. As it is, the players probably went out in Rome last night, enjoyed a Peroni or two amid the satisfaction of a job well done, and can now start plotting how to do the same to France in two weeks' time.

The composure Scotland showed to close out the game will be vital in matches to come when they find themselves in the same position knowing how it is done. With France looking as poor as they did against Wales on Friday night, the Scottish players will go into that game with confidence.

The plaudits will head in Weir's direction and rightly so. I know what that is like - it's a true hero or villain moment and you know that in advance, adding to the pressure. You are 30 to 35 metres out and people are hoping you will knock it over but it is really tough.

It was not just Weir, though. The guys who were onside and there to ... not block but accidentally stand in the way ... did an excellent job as well while Chris Cusiter's pass was spot on. One thing that was important for Weir was that he got good contact and got height on it early so, there was no chance of it being charged down. It will do his confidence the world of good and that will spread through the whole squad.

There were other pluses to come out of this game, though. It was great to see Alex Dunbar running in for a couple of tries, that will be a massive boost for him and his confidence; it should move him on to the next level. The line-out functioned well with a 100% record on our own throw plus a couple of steals.

By and large, the guys who came in made a difference. Johnnie Beattie and Richie Gray have both been accused of being a bit lazy at times but they worked their socks off showing why they deserved their recalls.

We had a lot of possession throughout the game but turned over the ball when it mattered in the first half. After the break, it all changed and suddenly we started to hang on to it a lot better and that was what really made the difference. We didn't go into our shells and go all negative.

Tactically what was important was that the offloading game worked. The players were able to handle the ball securely and when they were finding each other in space, it was always tough for the Italians to cope. The way Sean Lamont set up the final try with his break and offload to Cusiter, who then found Dunbar, was a perfect example of what this team can achieve when they get their game right. There is a bit of creativity there that we have not seen for while and it is so important.

There has been a fair amount of negative chat after the performances against Ireland and England, with people talking about rubbish like suggesting we could be relegated from the Six Nations, but we know how tough it is to go to Rome and win. After all, Scotland had not done it since 2006 and this was only our third Six Nations win there.

Now we have won a game away from home in the Six Nations, which is not an easy job and, more encouraging still, this was the best performance by the team for some time. They showed their best attacking flair for a while, more creativity and more consistency in holding on to the ball.

In playing terms, there was a lot to take encouragement from the game, but the bottom line is that it was a win and, after the recent displays, that is what really matters.

After the England game it looked as though there was nothing much to build on apart from some decent defence, but now we can look at this and say there is something there; something special, something that can work for the Scottish game.

There are still things that need to be tidied up - there were still a few mistakes and the decision making was not always spot-on - but that is tweaking. A win is what matters.

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