* Scotland keep clean sheet in 29-0 win
* Defend ranking ahead of World Cup draw
* Notch four home victories in row
* Italy bottom of standings after five losses (Adds details, quotes)
EDINBURGH, March 18 (Reuters) - A vibrant Scotland side ran in four tries to crush Italy 29-0 and give departing coach Vern Cotter a fitting send-off in their final Six Nations match at Murrayfield on Saturday.
Flyhalf Finn Russell, replacement centre Matt Scott and wingers Tim Visser and Tommy Seymour scored tries as the Scots earned a bonus-point win and protected their fifth place in the world rankings ahead of the 2019 World Cup draw.
Italy, who lost all five matches in the tournament, failed to register a point as flyhalf Carlo Cana missed three penalties and the backs fluffed two clear try-scoring chances early in the second half.
The Scots, humbled 61-21 by England last weekend, climbed to second in the standings before the day’s later matches after notching a fourth consecutive home win for the first time since 2006.
“I would like to thank the players and everyone for the last three years it has been fun,” New Zealander Cotter told the crowd in an emotional farewell.
Fullback Stuart Hogg got Scotland off the mark with a penalty after five minutes before Cana missed a chance to level when he pulled his kick wide from a good position.
That miss summed up Italy’s miserable afternoon even if it took the home side nearly half an hour for their first big breakthrough.
Following a penalty lineout, scrumhalf Ali Price passed to Russell on the blind side and the flyhalf darted between two defenders to score the first try.
Scotland changed ends 15-0 up after Scott, who had come on for the injured Huw Jones, touched down after Hogg had tapped back Price’s chip into the corner.
Wooden spoon holders Italy should have scored a try soon after the break but a mixture of dogged Scottish defence and their own inept ball-handling out wide denied them.
The visitors camped on the Scottish line for what seemed an age, earning five penalties as they repeatedly tried to force their way over from mauls and home captain John Barclay was sin-binned.
But when Italy should have scored in the corner on two occasions, the backs were ponderous and butter-fingered in their passing and the chances went begging, something their Irish coach Conor O’Shea will have to work hard on.
The Scots recovered their dominance in the final quarter and Visser and Seymour added tries with Russell converting both.
”Great performance from the boys,“ Russell told the BBC. ”We knew we had to try and get a bonus point, so it was great to get a fourth try and to keep them to nil helps if it comes down to that. “We were very disappointed after last week. It was great to come back and get a bonus point here.”
Reporting by Rex Gowar, editing by Ed Osmond