France ease past Italy in dire affair
France kept their slim Six Nations dreams alive with a 29-0 win at Italy on Sunday.
In an error-strewn, turgid, scrappy match Yoann Maestri’s try gave France the necessary breathing space to go through the motions for the rest of the second-half. And in the last play of the match substitute Mathieu Bastareaud ploughed over from close range to stretch the lead to 29 points.
Both teams were erratic from the tee, with Italy missing three shots at the posts, and Camille Lopez notched six points before being substituted at half-time with his replacement Jules Plisson knocking over 10 and Scott Spedding three.
France went into the game amid rumours coach Philippe Saint-Andre would lose his job should Les Bleus fail in Rome but despite making 19 errors – one more than Italy – they were in control throughout. It was the first time Italy had failed to score a point at home since they joined the Six Nations in 2000.
Italy suffered the late withdrawal of fly-half Kelly Haimona with a groin injury and Tommaso Allan, who started at No.10, looked to suffer an injury in a similar area pre-match. He lasted just 13 minutes and looked to aggravate the injury when attempting a kick at the posts and was hauled off for Luciano Orquera who fared little better from the tee. Italy also lost Matias Aguero and Luca Morisi to injury in the first-half.
France made eight changes for the match and debutant Noa Nakaitaci was the first to stretch his legs with a 60-metre dash only to be hauled down by Sergio Parisse who was making a record 112th appearance for the Azzuri.
The case of Nakaitaci rampaging down the wing was a rare sight in a first-half blighted by knock-ons and penalties. Italy had a pair of shots at the post but missed both while Lopez and Spedding got the scoreboard ticking over for the visitors as they went into the break nine points to the good.
Any hopes of the hosts finding some momentum in the second-half were quashed in the opening moments when the normally precise Parisse conceded a silly penalty. Plisson stroked it over and four minutes later they had the first try of the game thanks to a wonderful sweeping move which was started by the impressive Spedding.
He collected a loose kick in his own 22 and ran through the Italian defence to give France key field position. Debutant No.8 Loan Goujon took the ball on and it was eventually recycled to Maestri who crossed unopposed in the corner.
Italy had chances to get some points on the board but spurned opportunities for kicks at the posts for a shot at a driving lineout, a weapon they used so effectively against Scotland in the last round. But they were misfiring in the setpiece with Thierry Dusautoir keeping a stranglehold on the battle in the forwards. Italy’s frustration was compounded in the 74th minute when skipper Parisse limped off.
As the clock ticked past the 80th minute, France won a five-metre scrum and eventually the ball found substitute Bastareaud who crashed over under the posts to give Plisson the simplest of conversions.
The win for France gives them the slim chance of finishing this Six Nations as champions. They need a win against favourites England at Twickenham, alongside a Scotland win over Ireland and for Italy to beat Wales. They also need to make up the points difference with them lying currently 15 off England.