Planet Rugby

Italy shock the defending champions

12th March 2011 13:53

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Sergio Parisse Italy beat France

Victory at last: Sergio Parisse

Italy made history on Saturday when they recorded their first ever Six Nations victory over France, winning 22-21 in a nail biter in Rome.

The defending Six Nations and Grand Slam champions outscored their hosts two tries to one but made far to many errors, allowing Mirco Bergamasco to slot six penalties and convert Andrea Masi's try to hand Italy the biggest victory in their rugby history.

So often the weak link in the Azzurri's game, Bergamasco landed six out of his eight kicks from the tee to punish the French for their sloppy indiscretions.

Indeed les Bleus will head back to Paris ruing a string of mistakes. Many were made under pressure but some will leave coach French fans pulling their hair out and pointing fingers with wing Yoann Huget amongst those in the firing line.

10/1 underdogs at kick-off, Italy produced yet another courageous effort and must be given full marks for effort and commitment. By contrast, their visitors seemed flat, uninspired and were unable to match the home side for physical intensity.

Contrary to what has become the norm, Italy's success was not built on scrum domination. In fact, it was the French set piece that had the upper hand, and one could argue that they had a case for a potentially match-winning penalty in the dying minutes. But rather than crying over split milk, Marc Lièvremont's team should look to their chronic sterility on attack and their knack for fluffing opportunities, exemplified by Aurelien Rougerie dropping the ball in the act of scoring for the second straight match.

An early try from Vincent Clerc gave France an 8-6 lead at the break. It was a classic winger's try as Clerc latched onto Rougerie's long pass out wide before chipping over the last defender and using his pace to get to the ball first.

The game looked dead and buried when François Trinh-Duc and Morgan Parra linked up to slice through the Italian defence to put the scrum-half in under the sticks.

18-6 down going into the final quarter, a lesser team would have buckled. But Italy never let there heads drop and were back in the game when Fabio Semenzato found Andrea Masi on the blindside and the full-back darted over from short range to revive his team's hopes.

Bergamasco landed two more penalties to Parra's one to set up a grandstand finish. With just four minutes left on the clock the Italian wing landed his sixth successful kick to give the hosts the lead for the first time.

France plied the pressure in the dying minutes, but with Stadio Flaminio in full voice, the visitors were denied the penalty they sought.

And thus history was made.

Man of the match: Tough one to call. Sergio Parisse was at his brilliant best but how can we deny the try-scorer on such an historic occasion? Andrea Masi was solid as a rock at the back and was rewarded with a try he'll never forget.

Moment of the match: Italy trailed for 76 minutes, but the roar from the crowd when Mirco Bergamasco's final penalty split the uprights left no doubt as to who was ahead on the scoreboard when it mattered.

Villain of the match: No rough stuff to report.

The scorers:

For Italy:
Try: Masi
Con: Bergamasco
Pens: Bergamasco 5

For France:
Tries: Clerc, Parra
Con: Parra
Pens: Parra 3

The teams:

Italy:15 Andrea Masi, 14 Tommaso Benvenuti, 13 Gonzalo Canale, 12 Gonzalo Garcia, 11 Mirco Bergamasco, 10 Luciano Orquera, 9 Fabio Semenzato, 8 Sergio Parisse, 7 Robert Barbieri, 6 Alessandro Zanni, 5 Carlo Antonio Del Fava, 4 Santiago Dellape, 3 Martin Castrogiovanni, 2 Carlo Festuccia, 1 Andrea Lo Cicero.
Replacements: 16 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 17 Salvatore Perugini, 18 Quintin Geldenhuys, 19 Paul Derbyshire, 20 Pablo Canavosio, 21 Kristopher Burton, 22 Luke McLean.

France: 15 Maxime Médard, 14 Yoann Huget, 13 Aurelien Rougerie, 12 Yannick Jauzion, 11 Vincent Clerc, 10 Francois Trinh-Duc, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Sébastien Chabal, 7 Julien Bonnaire, 6 Thierry Dusautoir (c), 5 Lionel Nallet, 4 Julien Pierre, 3 Nicolas Mas, 2 William Servat, 1 Sylvain Marconnet
Replacements:16 Guilhem Guirado, 17 Luc Ducalcon, 18 Jerome Thion, 19 Imanol Harinordoquy, 20 Julien Tomas, 21 Damien Traille, 22 Clement Poitrenaud.

Venue: Stadio Flaminio, Rome
Referee: Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland), Stuart Terheege (England)
Television match official: Jim Yuille (Scotland)

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