Planet Rugby

France sprint past impressive Italy

04th February 2012 13:25

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Julien Malzieu France Italy 6N 2012

Brilliant try: Julien Malzieu

Tournament favourites France got their 2012 Six Nations campaign off to an ideal start on Saturday with a 30-12 victory over Italy in Paris.

Philippe Saint-André's team ran four tries past their visitors for a comfortable win although the scoreboard belies the quality of the Italian performance.

Indeed, Italy dominated possession and territory in the first half but France held a 15-6 lead at the break thanks to two well-taken tries from Aurélien Rougerie and Julien Malzieu.

The scoreline was by no means a fair reflection of the first 40 minutes but Les Bleus pounced on their only two opportunities while Italy failed to finish off a number of promising build-ups.

The trend continued early in the second half as Vincent Clerc touched down for France to put victory well out of reach of their rivals from across the Alps.

The French turned the screw in the closing minutes as their performance grew in fluidity and confidence. Debutant centre Wesley Fofana added a late try to send a message across the Channel - France mean business.

The Azzurri started with plenty of positive intent and impressed with their ball retention. But France's tackling early on was just as noteworthy.

The French opened the scoring when Dimitri Yachvili slotted a penalty after a 60m break by Malzieu put the Italian defence under pressure. But the visitors domination of possession in the first quarter was rewarded when fly-half Kris Burton landed a neat drop goal to level matters.

France struck soon afterwards though when Rougerie spotted two font rowers in the Italian defensive line and ghosted between them to score.

Yachvili's extras put the hosts 10-3 in front and helped settle a few nerves after a jittery start, but a Burton penalty on the half-hour mark cut the gap to four points.

France had been struggling at scrum time but bucked the trend to produce a big shove and lay the platform for their second try. Louis Picamoles broke off the back and burst into space before finding Malzieu on his outside. The Clermont winger still had plenty to do but beat five defenders to find his way over after a brilliant run to give Les Bleus a comfortable advantage at the break.

Burton and Yachvili traded penalties early in the second period as Italy continued to do most of playing while France continued to profit from every opportunity offered them.

The wind was taken out of Italy's sails in the 54th minute when Vincent Clerc grabbed a third try for France after François Trinh-Duc had chipped ahead before the fly-half and Rougerie displayed some good football skills to give their wing an easy run-in.

Fofana rubbed salt into the Italian wounds as he finished off for try number four at the end of big overlap to cap France's best period of the game.

Italy will head home well beaten but Jacques Brunel will take plenty of positives from an encouraging performance.

Man of the match: Louis Picamoles justified the new French staff's confidence in him with impressive display but we agree with the official gong for Julien Malzieu, who looked a dangerous whenever the ball found it's way to his wing.

Moment of the match: The jury was unanimous here - Julien Malzieu's try just before half-time will go down as a candidate for Try of the Year. Not only was it a fantastic solo effort from the big wing (and Louis Picamoles's work to create it was equally good) but it gave France an 11-point lead and dented the visitors' morale.

Villain of the match: No nasty stuff to report.

The scorers:

For France:
Tries: Rougerie, Malzieu, Clerc, Fofana
Cons: Yachvili 2
Pens: Yachvili 2

For Italy:
Pens: Burton 2, Botes
Drop: Burton

Yellow card: Geldenhuys (Italy - 70th min - pulling maul down)

France: 15 Maxime Medard, 14 Vincent Clerc, 13 Aurelien Rougerie, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Julien Malzieu, 10 François Trinh-Duc, 9 Dimitri Yachvili, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Julien Bonnaire, 6 Thierry Dusautoir (c), 5 Lionel Nallet, 4 Pascal Pape, 3 Nicolas Mas, 2 William Servat, 1 Vincent Debaty.
Replacements: 16 Dimitri Szarzewski, 17 Jean-Baptiste Poux, 18 Yoann Maestri, 19 Imanol Harinordoquy, 20 Morgan Parra, 21 Lionel Beauxis, 22 Maxime Mermoz.

Italy:15 Andrea Masi, 14 Giovanbattista Venditti, 13 Tommaso Benvenuti, 12 Alberto Sgarbi, 11 Luke McLean, 10 Kristopher Burton, 9 Edoardo Gori, 8 Sergio Parisse (c) 7 Robert Barbieri, 6 Alessandro Zanni, 5 Quintin Geldenhuys, 4 Cornelius van Zyl, 3 Martin Castrogiovanni, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Andrea Lo Cicero.
Replacements: 16 Tommaso D'Apice, 17 Lorenzo Cittadini, 18 Marco Bortolami, 19 Simone Favaro, 20 Fabio Semenzato, 21 Tobias Botes, 22 Gonzalo Canale.

Venue: Stade de France, St. Denis (Paris)
Referee: Nigel Owens

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