France scored three second-half tries in ten minutes to beat Italy 30-10 in the Six Nations championship yesterday and maintain their perfect start.
Louis Picamoles, Wesley Fofana and debutant winger Hugo Bonneval all touched down between the 43rd and 53rd minutes as France sealed victory in spite of a dull, error-ridden first half at the Stade de France.
Jean-Marc Doussain kicked France ahead 9-3 at half-time, with Tommaso Allan scoring Italy’s points after both sides had wasted their first two attempts on goal.
The home team, who snatched a late 26-24 victory over England last weekend, showed much more attacking intent after the break. Picamoles surged from a maul to cross the line three minutes into the second half, Fofana ran down the right wing for the second and Bonneval finished off a splendid counter-attack to put France 30-3 up, with Doussain converting the three tries.
“We had to push for some attacks but the Italians were strong in defence. We had to adapt,” man of the match Fofana said afterwards.
The hosts were content to see out the match as Italy tried to force their way back into the game. The visitors were rewarded with a late try by Tommaso Iannone.
Sebastien Vahaamahina was yellow carded for France and team-mate Rabah Slimani and Italy’s Michele Rizzo both saw red late on after punches were thrown on the pitch.
The win saw France join Ireland, who defeated holders Wales 26-3 in Dublin, on top of the table with four points. Italy have yet to earn a point.
The opening was dominated by the boot before France quickly camped themselves in the opposition half, having almost total possession in the first ten minutes.
They failed to take advantage of Italy’s lack of discipline, however, with Doussain missing fifth and seventh-minute penalties and fly-half Jules Plisson sending a drop goal attempt wide. Italy eventually gained a foothold but they were just as wasteful when aiming for the posts, with centre Gonzalo Garcia missing two attempts from distance in cold and windy conditions.
Doussain eventually opened the scoring for the home team after 27 minutes and then added two more penalties to Allan’s one to put France 9-3 in front at the interval.
France returned from the locker-room with more attacking intent and blew Italy away with three quick tries. Picamoles powered his way to the first after breaking through a maul on the left wing and Doussain converted to make it 16-3.
Two minutes later, Fofana skipped past Luke McLean’s tackle and ran to the line with a mixture of power and pace. The centre played a key role again eight minutes later when he intercepted Mirco Bergamasco’s pass inside his own half, setting up Yoann Huget who brought the ball to the line before finding Bonneval in support for the third.
“It’s a strange feeling, because for 60 or 70 minutes we were close to France’s level and at times even got on top,” Italy coach Jacques Brunel said. “But those ten minutes or so [in the second half] totally changed the game.”
France failed to press home their advantage but, after Italian substitute Tobias Botes had a try ruled out by the television match official, Iannone went over in the corner to give the scoreline a measure of respectability.
France coach Philippe Saint-Andre declared himself happy with an hour of his team’s performance. “We did some good work for 55-60 minutes,” Saint-Andre said. “We scored three tries, but nothing happened in the last 20 minutes. There were lots of penalties for both sides and two red cards. It was a good 60 minutes, but very disappointing for the last 20. We didn’t have any ball.”
Asked about the sendings-off, Saint-Andre said he needed to look at video footage, but Slimani and Rizzo will now face disciplinary hearings. France were briefly reduced to 13 players following the sin-binning of lock Vahaamahina for kicking the ball away.
“The yellow card was very harsh,” Saint-Andre added. “The red cards, I think there was a scrum and something dodgy. I just prefer to see the three good tries we scored. Last week, the beginning of the second-half against England was terrible, so we were very focused to start well in the second-half.”
Scorers: France: Tries: Picamoles, Fofana, Bonneval. Cons: Doussain 3. Pens: Doussain 3. Italy: Try: Iannone. Con: Orquera. Pen: Allan.
France: Dulin; Huget, Bastareaud, Fofana, Bonneval; Plisson, Doussain; Domingo, Szarzewski, Mas, Pape, Maestri, Nyanga, Le Roux, Picamoles. Subs: Fickou for Bastareaud (70), Trinh-Duc for Plisson (66), Machenaud for Doussain (60), Forestier for Domingo (48), Kayser for Szarzewski (57), Slimani for Mas (48), Vahaamahina for Pape (66), Chouly for Picamoles (57). Sin Bin: Vahaamahina (69). Sent Off: Slimani (70).
Italy: McLean; Iannone, Campagnaro, Garcia, Sarto; Allan, Gori; De Marchi, Ghiraldini, Castrogiovanni, Geldenhuys, Furno, Minto, M. Bergamasco, Parisse. Subs: Orquera for Allan (63), Botes for Gori (63), Rizzo for De Marchi (58), Giazzon for Ghiraldini (58), Cittadini for Castrogiovanni (58), Bortolami for Geldenhuys (70), Zanni for Minto (51). Sent Off: Rizzo (70).