France made it back-to-back victories in the Six Nations as a second-half stampede saw them ease past Italy 30-10 in Paris on Sunday.
France made it back-to-back victories in the Six Nations Championship as a second-half stampede saw them ease past Italy 30-10 in Paris on Sunday.
A 9-3 half-time score summed up perfectly what was a dismal opening 40 minutes before the floodgates opened after the break for Les Bleus.
Tries came from Louis Picamoles, Wesley Fofana and Hugo Bonneval while Tommaso Iannone replied three minutes from time for the Azzurri.
A red card apiece for Rabah Slimani and Michele Rizzo for trading headbutts soured what was an otherwise clean contest of Six Nations rugby.
Action now takes a week's break before France go to Wales while Italy host Scotland in what already looks like being the Wooden Spoon decider.
On this second-half form, the French will fancy their chances against a Welsh side that had their confidence shattered against Ireland on Saturday.
It did take a while for France to click into gear though as that aforementioned summation of the first period suggests. Several missed penalty attempts from both sides meant the game was scoreless until the 27th minute when Jean-Marc Doussain finally found his range following a strong run from full-back Brice Dulin.
France weren't ahead for long however as visiting fly-half Tomasso Allan equalised off the tee a minute later as Dulin was penalised for not retreating behind the back foot of tackled player Alberto De Marchi before contesting at the ruck. Allan made no mistake to level.
Italy were on top at scrum time at this point but it was to be France's driving maul that did the damage next, with Italy falling into the trap of collapsing it, thus coughing up a further three.
Doussain was again on target just before the break when Joshua Furno was pinged by referee Jaco Peyper for not rolling away, meaning it was a six-point lead for the French.
Whatever coach Philippe Saint-Andre said at the break clearly worked as Les Bleus came out firing, with Picamoles barging over on 43 minutes after TMO confirmation because of possible obstruction by hooker Dimitri Szarzewski off a driving maul fifteen metres out.
And like London buses, the hosts' second arrived soon after when Fofana spotted space on the blindside of a ruck and quickly set off for the right-hand corner, seeing off Luke McLean en route to the try-line. Doussain was now striking the ball sweetly to make it 23-3.
On 52 minutes the result was put beyond doubt as France scored the pick of their three tries. It came from a lovely breakout from his own 22 by Fofana, who freed Yoann Huget on the left before the wing fed Bonneval for a debut try. Doussain's conversion made it 30-3.
The threat of a demolition was now looming in Paris but instead there was a lull before replacements Slimani and Rizzo saw red for respective headbutts, this only a minute after France lock Sebastien Vahaamahina had been yellow carded for throwing the ball away.
The last word would be Italy's though and credit to them for it as wing Iannone finished well, giving them hope ahead of the biggest game of their 2014 Championship on February 22.
Man of the match: Few would have scored the try that Wesley Fofana did. His ability to see space before others was evident when he spotted just that on the blindside of a ruck. Net result, he picked, went and raced over despite the best efforts of covering full-back McLean.
Moment of the match: When the French aren't playing well, they can always look to Louis Picamoles to get them going forward. His try to make it 16-3 with the conversion was key.
Villain(s) of the match: No place for headbutts in rugby. Michele Rizzo and Rabah Slimani.
Tries: Picamoles, Fofana, Bonneval
Con: Doussain 3
Pen: Doussain 3
Yellow: Vahaamahina (70 mins – kicking ball away)
Red: Slimani (71 mins – headbutt)
Red: Rizzo (71 mins – headbutt and punch)
France: 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Yoann Huget, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Hugo Bonneval, 10 Jules Plisson, 9 Jean-Marc Doussain, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Bernard Le Roux, 6 Yannick Nyanga, 5 Yoann Maestri 4 Pascal PapÃ© (c), 3 Nicolas Mas, 2 Dimitri Szarzewski, 1 Thomas Domingo.
Replacements: 16 Benjamin Kayser, 17 Yannick Forestier, 18 Rabah Slimani, 19 Sebastien Vahaamahina, 20 Damien Chouly, 21 Maxime Machenaud, 22 Francois Trinh-Duc, 23 Gael Fickou.
Italy:15 Luke McLean, 14 Tommaso Iannone, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 Gonzalo Garcia, 11 Leonardo Sarto, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Edoardo Gori, 8 Sergio Parisse, 7 Mauro Bergamasco, 6 Francesco Minto, 5 Joshua Furno, 4 Quintin Geldenhuys, 3 Martin Castrogiovanni, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Alberto De Marchi.
Replacements:16 Davide Giazzon, 17 Michele Rizzo, 18 Lorenzo Cittadini, 19 Marco Bortolami, 20 Alessandro Zanni, 21 Tobias Botes, 22 Luciano Orquera, 23 Angelo Esposito.
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Craig Joubert (South Africa), Francisco Pastrana (Argentina)