France finished their Six Nations campaign on a high courtesy of a hard-fought 25-14 win over Italy at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome on Saturday.
In a tightly contested affair, momentum between the sides ebbed and flowed but it was France who got the rub of the green in the end as they outscored the Azzurri by three tries to one.
The result was in the balance until the game’s dying moments but a try from Damian Penaud secured the win for Les Bleus after Italy wasted try-scoring opportunities at the other end just before that.
The victory is France’s second of the tournament while Italy finish winless for the fourth successive year and extends their drought in the Six Nations to 22 matches.
Italy dominated the early exchanges and raced into a 6-0 lead after Tommaso Allan succeeded with two penalties.
France were slowly getting into the game and in the 16th minute Penaud gathered a pass from Maxime Medard close to the halfway line before setting off on a brilliant run down the right-hand touchline. He cut infield and beat Tito Tebaldi with deft footwork before offloading to Antoine Dupont, who went over for the opening try.
Romain Ntamack slotted the conversion which gave his side a 7-5 lead but Les Bleus were dealt a blow shortly afterwards when their captain, Guilhem Guirado, was forced off the field with a rib injury.
Despite that setback, France still held the upper-hand and midway through the half Ntamack extended their via another penalty after Andrea Lovotti slowed the ball down illegally at a ruck.
Italy were soon camped inside Les Bleus’ 22, however, and in the 24th minute Allan stabbed through a well-weighted grubber kick which caught the French defence by surprise. Marco Zanon gave chase but the ball bounced off the padding of an upright and the debutant centre knocked on.
Two minutes later, the Azzurri were denied again when Braam Steyn went over the whitewash under a mass of bodies, but television replays were inconclusive whether he grounded the ball.
It was all Italy during the rest of the half but despite spending most of the closing stages on the attack inside France’s half, they could not add to their points tally and the teams changed sides at the interval with Les Bleus holding a slender 10-6 lead.
Italy continued the second half like the finished off the first and in the 42nd minute Allan added another penalty after Yacouba Camara infringed at a ruck.
The visitors regained the initiative, however, and they did so in style courtesy of a brilliant try from Yoann Huget. This, after France’s forwards laid the groundwork with some strong carries. A long pass from Ntamack was gathered by Medard, who offloaded to Huget and the winger did well to outpace the cover defence on his way over the try-line.
Ntamack’s conversion was successful which gave the visitors some breathing space with the score 17-9 in their favour. Italy had an opportunity to narrow the gap in the 49th minute, when France strayed offside on defence but Allan’s was off target with his penalty attempt.
The Azzurri put that miss behind them and five minutes later Tebaldi crossed the whitewash from close quarters after an extended period in Les Bleus’ 22. Allan’s conversion attempt was wide of the mark but with the home side trailing by just three points, they were back in the match and continued to attack.
France needed a response and that came in the 63rd minute when Ntamack landed a drop goal from inside Italy’s 22 after Camille Chat did well in the build-up with a strong carry.
The next 10 minutes was a frantic affair as Italy launched several attacks in a bid to narrow the gap. In the 66th minute, Tebaldi thought he was over for his second try but his effort was disallowed after he lost the ball forward before regathering and dotting down.
In the 72nd minute, Les Bleus suffered a setback when Chat halted a maul illegally from Italy close to his try-line and he was sent to the sin bin for his efforts.
With a numerical advantage, Italy dominated proceedings but in the 75th minute Zanon blew the chance to score his side’s second try when he had the ball knocked from his grasp while crossing the try-line.
The tackle was made Penaud, who finished the game as Les Bleus’ hero when he gathered a pass from Ntamack before racing away to score the try which sealed his side’s win.
Pens: Allan 3
Tries: Dupont, Huget, Penaud
Cons: Ntamack 2
Drop goal: Ntamack
Yellow Card: Chat
|March 16, 2019||14:20||Guinness Six Nations||Guinness Six Nations 2019||80'|
|Team||Losing Bonus Point||Penalty||Tries||Conversions||4 TRY BP||Points||Outcome|