SCOTLAND had high hopes of winning this game – a result that would have taken them to the dizzy heights of a third-place play-off in the Women’s Six Nations. Instead, they now find themselves in a home decider against Wales on Saturday to avoid the Wooden Spoon after a performance which lacked both conviction and a cutting edge.

The Scots’ optimism before this match at Scotstoun stemmed from a belief that the Italians were vulnerable in the set-piece, and that their own fitness could be decisive late in the contest.

Sure enough, they showed a lot of stamina right to the end, but the damage had been done long before that, as the concession of two early tries had them chasing the game throughout.

And, although Italy had problems on their own ball, they put the home side under a lot of pressure in the set-piece too, winning comfortably to go through to that third-place play-off against Ireland.

“Really disappointed,” Easson said after the seven-tries-to-two defeat that means Scotland have now gone 11 games without a win in the Championship. “The performance wasn’t good enough today, I’ll be honest. We talked about coming out the traps for 20 minutes, and we were actually 12-0 down after a short space.

“That got us chasing the game. I thought we did well to get back to 12-10, but then to give away a soft try just before half-time, then another one just after half-time really put us under pressure. When we got in the ascendancy we just tended to give the ball back far too easily – or missed silly tackles. So harsh lessons, to be honest. And harsh words at full time. We have to learn. We have to get better.”

Captain Manuela Furlan scored a hat-trick for the visitors, using her speed on the wing to outstrip the defence, while centre Beatrice Rigoni’s brace were the product of her sheer power. Vittoria Ostuni Minuzzi and Ilaria Arrighetti got the other touchdowns for the Italians, with Michela Sillari adding three conversions.

Lana Skeldon and Emma Wassell claimed a try in either half for Scotland, both from line-out drives. Captain Helen Nelson converted both and added two penalties, and Evie Wills and Coreen Grant made late debuts off the bench, but on the whole this was a match to forget for the home team, who only played close to their best when it was too late.

“I thought our best defensive set in the game was after 76 minutes,” Easson added. “We shouldn’t have our best set of the game with four minutes to go. Lots to think about.”

England, who beat both Scotland and Italy in the first two weekends of the new-format Championship to top Pool A, now meet France in Saturday’s final. The French brushed Ireland aside 56-15 yesterday to win Pool B.

Scorers, Scotland: Tries: Skeldon, Wassell. Cons: Nelson 2. Pens: Nelson 2.

Italy: Tries: Rigoni 2, Furlan 3, Arrighetti, Ostuni Minuzzi. Cons: Sillari 3.

Scotland: C Rollie; E Musgrove (C Grant 69), L Thomson, H Nelson (captain), M Gaffney; S Law (E Wills 71), M McDonald (J Maxwell 54); L Bartlett (L Cockburn 59), L Skeldon, M Kennedy (C Belisle 47), E Wassell, L McMillan, E Gallagher, R McLachlan, S Cattigan. Unused substitutes: J Rettie, P Muzambe, N Howat.

Italy: V Ostuni Minuzzi (A Muzzo 66); M Furlan (captain), M Sillari, B Rigoni, M Magatti; V Madia, S Barattin (S Stefan 72); E Skofca (G Maris 66), M Bettoni (M Merlo 75), L Gai (L Cammarano 61), V Fedrighi (S Tounesi 79), G Duca (I Locatelli 71), I Arrighetti, F Sgorbini (B Veronese 78), E Giordano.

Referee: N O’Donnell (England).