Italy stun France in Rome
March 12, 2011
Italy fullback Andrea Masi is congratulated after his try
© Getty Images
Italy scored a historic 22-21 victory over France in their Six Nations clash at the Stadio Flaminio in Rome on Saturday.
Winger Mirco Bergamasco kicked the hosts to only their second victory over the the French and their first since joining the Championship. Tries from Vincent Clerc and Morgan Parra had put France on course for victory in a largely scrappy contest but a gutsy Italy hit back with a try of their own through Andrea Masi before Bergamasco stepped up to steer his side home.
A sloppy start from France saw them fail to claim the kick off and then concede a free kick at the resulting scrum. Italy gladly turned the screw inside the 22 with the visitors forced into an early penalty, that was converted by Bergamasco to open the scores.
The scrum continued to misfire with France's Sylvain Marconnet penalised for not binding correctly and the referee's efforts to tidy things up proved a little fruitless. France had slightly more joy with ball in hand but the Italian defence held firm with the visitors forced to put boot to ball.
Playing with confidence, the Italians worked a good attacking platform but a loose pass in midfield was pounced upon by France fly-half Francois Trinh-Duc, who then hacked on into space. Bergamasco won the race to the ball and averted the danger but not for long. France re-grouped and worked the ball wide to Clerc who then chipped over Italy's Gonzalo Canale before racing onto the ball to grab the opening try. Parra failed to add the extras but they were soon on the front foot again with Trinh-Duc wriggling free in the shadow of the Italian posts before off loading to centre Aurelien Rougerie, who lost the ball forward as he stretched to touch it down.
That missed opportunity prompted a fierce response from the French with an impressive surge at the scrum driving the Italians back and drawing a penalty that Parra kicked to extend his side's lead. Italy rallied with Canale proving elusive on a darting run into the French 22, one that led to Rougerie being penalised at the breakdown and Bergamasco made not mistake from the kicking tee.
Italy's work in defence continued to disrupt France's attempts to run the ball and their intelligence in possession ensured they kept the visitors busy at every turn, with a strong run from Masi illustrating the home side's intent. But a moment of indiscipline gifted Parra the chance to give his side some more breathing room. His kick hit the upright but flanker Julien Bonnaire was alive to the situation and bundled Italy No.8 Sergio Parisse back over his own line as he claimed the ball. Marconnet crumpled at the resulting scrum in a major let-off for the hosts.
Parra then looked to inject some pace into proceedings with a penalty inside the Italian half and he found support from his forwards but they were robbed of the ball once again with Parisse and hooker Carlo Festuccia at the heart of proceedings.
The Italians began the second-half brightly with fly-half Luciano Orquera exploiting a gap in the defensive line before finding Masi, whose run took him up to the 22 but support was slow in coming. France hit back with a decent spell of pressure and Parra edged his side ahead with his second penalty after Italy's Martin Castrogiovanni was penalised for holding onto the ball in the tackle.
A poor pass from Rougerie handed Italy excellent field position but French power came to the rescue again at the scrum and within moments Italy were under the cosh on their own 22. A good tackle from Orquera brought centre Yannick Jauzion to ground but a moment of magic from Trinh-Duc carved an opening as Parra loomed up to score under the posts and make the conversion a formality.
The dominant French pack laid the foundation for the next raid but their execution let them down and it was Italy who engineered the next scoring chance. Bergamasco was short with his penalty kick after France's Yoann Huget failed to release in the tackle. He was wide of the mark with his next effort a minute later but it did little to dent their adventure.
Blindside Alessandro Zanni and winger Tommaso Benvenuti worked an opening down the short side and the ball was recycled by Semenzato, who found Masi for a score in the corner. Bergamasco's conversion closed the gap to five points and brought the home crowd to its feet. The momentum was now with the hosts and when France drifted offside in midfield there was further cause for hope with Bergamasco's third penalty making it a two-point game.
Trinh-Duc tried to stop the rot with a drop goal but saw his effort drift just wide of the posts before Parra made Castrogiovanni pay for not releasing with his third penalty. But they were not able to breathe easy for long with an excellent offload from Parisse leading to yet another penalty - this time against a French defence determined to kill the ball. Bergamasco got his angles right with the kick to keep his side in touch as the game entered the final ten minutes.
An error from Huget added to France's woes with his misguided decision to take the ball into touch leading to another Italian penalty that Bergamasco nailed from out wide to put his side on course for a famous victory.
Tasked with closing out the game the Italian forwards looked to keep it tight while the backs were happy to play for territory. France peppered the line with Huget and Traille making gains upfield before a stoppage time scrum offered them one final lifeline. Unsurprisingly it needed to be re-set - not once but twice - but there was to be no great escape.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
"This team deserves to be recognised as the greatest of all time." Huw Richards looks at Gareth Edwards' final match for Wales
The two leading contenders for the best modern open-side flanker go head to head in Paris on Saturday. John Taylor assesses the tale of the tape
Move over, Castro - from falling off a chair to stepping off the team bus, Scrum Sevens recounts some of the strangest rugby injuries ever
Martin Gillingham on the latest from France and why the national side can learn a thing or two from Top 14 side Bordeaux Begles