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First win in two years marks tentative progress in the rankings

Scotland's return to the top 10 in the world rankings after Saturday's ruthless 34-10 destruction of Italy was just the first small step in the right direction according to their caretaker head coach.

Tim Visser breaks free to open the scoring for Scotland. Picture Stewart Atwood
Tim Visser breaks free to open the scoring for Scotland. Picture Stewart Atwood

Scott Johnson's praise of his side was measured after they recorded their first RBS 6 Nations Championship win in two years to leapfrog their opponents in the rankings and also overhaul Tonga, who beat them in the autumn.

While he savoured the result, Johnson also emphasised the need to enhance their capacity to win the gain-line battle.

"To achieve the next level we need to do this against the guys who do it best," he said. "We showed some good potency but I will keep saying it – we as a country need to get this part of the game right. We have improved but it is not where we need to be."

This year's is certainly becoming a remarkable championship – five different teams won the first five matches before England eased clear at the top yesterday with the competition's third away win.

"There is more on the attacking team at the contact area, which is why it is so important you get that part right," added the interim coach. "England scored a few last week and we scored a few this week. Maybe the tournament is changing a little bit."

Scoring four tries in a championship match for the first time in a decade capped a fine weekend for Scottish rugby. The under-20s kicked it off by sweeping aside their Italian counterparts, while the national sevens team had a rare win over England in Las Vegas to reach a successive quarter-final. Glasgow Warriors also reclaimed four places to return to second place in the RaboDirect Pro12 with a fine bonus-point win at Zebre.

Scott Johnson's praise of his side was measured after they recorded their first RBS 6 Nations Championship win in two years to leapfrog their opponents in the rankings and also overhaul Tonga, who beat them in the autumn.

While he savoured the result, Johnson also emphasised the need to enhance their capacity to win the gain-line battle.

"To achieve the next level we need to do this against the guys who do it best," he said. "We showed some good potency but I will keep saying it – we as a country need to get this part of the game right. We have improved but it is not where we need to be."

This year's is certainly becoming a remarkable championship – five different teams won the first five matches before England eased clear at the top yesterday with the competition's third away win.

"There is more on the attacking team at the contact area, which is why it is so important you get that part right," added the interim coach. "England scored a few last week and we scored a few this week. Maybe the tournament is changing a little bit."

Scoring four tries in a championship match for the first time in a decade capped a fine weekend for Scottish rugby. The under-20s kicked it off by sweeping aside their Italian counterparts, while the national sevens team had a rare win over England in Las Vegas to reach a successive quarter-final. Glasgow Warriors also reclaimed four places to return to second place in the RaboDirect Pro12 with a fine bonus-point win at Zebre. The buoyant mood was complemented by the roaring victory against Italy and best summed up by Sean Maitland, the New Zealand-born winger who put in a fine performance on his first Test appearance at Murrayfield. "The boys are pretty chuffed, but it's just the start," said one of 11 Glasgow Warriors in the squad.

"It was quite a feeling before kick off, singing the national anthem and hearing all the crowd sing. I was getting shivers down my spine, hopefully I'll get to start the next game because it was a good feeling.

"We've got all that potential out there. It's just the beginning but we've got good depth, we've got a good squad and I think we're going to shock some teams."

The stadium, which is almost certain to be filled to capacity for the forthcoming meetings with Ireland and Wales, was only three-quarters full but Rob Harley, Maitland's Glasgow club-mate, felt similarly lifted.

"I got really good advice. Kelly Brown, Al Kellock and Greig Laidlaw came to me before the game and said just enjoy it, soak in the atmosphere and if you get a chance when there are stoppages, take a look around, take a deep breath and realise the occasion," said the 22-year-old who was also sampling Test rugby at Murrayfield for the first time.

"During the anthems I was just trying to do that – soak it in – especially on the second verse of the anthem when they shut off the music and it was just us and the crowd. The noise was just reverberating around the stadium.

"It was so loud coming in from the stands from all directions. It was great, I tried to use it to feed off that energy.

"I guess it magnifies the pressure but it also magnifies the feeling when things go well. When the scrum was on top and the crowd was roaring then you get a huge boost for that. Every time anything went our way the crowd was right behind us, lifting us.

"In the second half, when the 'Flower of Scotland' song started coming out from the crowd again, it was just another boost, another lift for us to keep on and raise our game."

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