France 37-12 Italy

France produced a second-half flourish to emerge victorious from their all-Latin Six Nations Championship match with Italy and deny the Azzurri what would have been a breakthrough result. [more]

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France produced a second-half flourish to emerge victorious from their all-Latin Six Nations Championship match with Italy and deny the Azzurri what would have been a breakthrough result.

Italy, whose French coach Pierre Berbizier was making his competitive debut at the Stade de France, had looked to be on course for a first ever win on foreign soil at half-time when they led 12-8.

However, unlike against Ireland a fortnight ago when France let a 41-3 lead slip to 43-31 in the second half and incurred the displeasure of their own supporters, they had saved their best for the second half and sent their fans home happy.

The fact that they scored all five tries of the match – through Thomas Lievremont in the first half and Yannick Nyanga, Pieter De Villiers, Aurelien Rougerie and Frederic Michalak after the break – illustrated that the win was deserved for Bernard Laporte’s men.

Italy had put on a defensive performance in an error-ridden first half but the trusty boot of stand-off Ramiro Pez gave them the edge in terms of points.

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France’s Jean-Baptiste Elissalde put the first points on the board with a penalty but then three penalties from Pez turned the score 9-3 in favour of the youngest members of the Six Nations family.

A moment of invention from Elissalde then created the only try of the first half for recalled number eight Thomas Lievremont who had a simple task of touching down in the corner after an angled kick from the scrum half had left the Italian defence exposed.

Pez still had time to show his kicking skills with a drop goal that ensured the Italians led 12-8 at the interval to the clear consternation of the Stade de France crowd.

Shortly after the resumption it was 12-11 as Dimitri Yachvili, who had replaced Elissalde just before the interval, reduced arrears but with his next effort the Biarritz man hit an upright as the Italians defended their wafer-thin lead as France made a strong opening to the second half.

Pez then missed for the first time and the Italian lead remained at a single point with the game littered with handling errors from both sides.

However, when France did regain the lead it came with another touch of brilliance that had been largely absent from the match.

Italy full-back Cristian Stoica pumped a clearance towards Christophe Dominici who fed Florian Fritz and the centre’s mazy run created the opening that allowed him to offload to Nyanga who touched down in the corner for a try which – like Lievremont’s – was not converted.

Yachvili missed another kick and then was made to look foolish as he fumbled the ball with the touchline beckoning although referee Tony Spreadbury had already halted play.

It was De Villiers try after some extended forward pressure from France that effectively settled the match with Yachvili this time adding the extras.

Rougerie’s late try after some expansive passing smacked of showboating but was not undeserved and once again Yachvili converted and Michalak then provided an even better try – again with the extras.

The Basque bands were playing and Laporte’s war of words with the crowd a fortnight ago seemed forgotten as Les Bleus finished strongly and Italy’s first win on away soil in the northern hemisphere’s top tournament will have to wait a little longer.

Italy have performed well but not well enough in their three matches this season and now they must try and do what they can to avoid the wooden spoon.

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