France battle past game Italians
February 21, 2004
No one could accuse the Azzuri of not trying. In a 25 -0 defeat in Paris, against France a disciplined, aggressive and determined Italy fought tooth and nail to stop a French deluge of points. The game was physically trying and a fast attacking French 15 forced Italy into a series of nail biting, last gasp saves but John Kirwan's team didn't give an inch and limited the damage right up to the final whistle.
There was no sign of the collapse which had cost Italy 3 tries at the end of their match against England just the week before. Italy however, failed to create in attack and lacked the killing instinct to turn chances into points. An extremely disciplined French team did not concede a single penalty opportunity for the Azzuri to kick some points onto their score. Some of the Les Bleus will no doubt have their knuckles rapped for a lack of respect for the opposition. The flippancy of n° 11 Christophe Domici cost his team a certain 7 points when in the13th minute of the second half he sliced through the Italian defence and sauntered over the line with the ball in one hand only to fumble and lose the ball before he could touch down. French coach Bernard Laporte looked on from the stands in total disbelief.
France's first try came in the 25th minute and was scored by Man of the Match n° 8 Imanol Harinordoquy. The French attack drew the Italian players to the right then switched and swung the ball over to the other wing. Harinordoquy was ready to receive. Italy's Mirco Bergamsaco managed to pull the player down but it was not enough: the n ° 8 stretched out to his full length and popped the ball over the line. Elissalde converted. Despite intense pressure France was unable to extend its lead and the teams left the field at half time 10-0.
Italy's best chance came 10 minutes into the second half when a clear break by scrum half Paul Griffen pushed France right back on their line. Griffen's attempt was thwarted and Stoica tried to drive his way over but there was no way through. Italy's Roland De Marigny was unable to pull off an imitation of a Johnny Wilkinson classic kick into the corner for the winger. The kick was too long and too hard for the out stretched hands of Mirco Bergamsaco .
Imanol Harinordoquy wanted another cut of the action and in the 26th minute went for a repeat of his first try. The 108kg n°8 once more shook off a floundering Mirco Bergamasco who was unable to squeeze the giant into touch. The try and conversion took the French to a 20-0 lead.
Italy never really looked like scoring .and dangerous French assaults were often the result of lack of precision in attack. The third French try was show of pure speed by French winger Pepito Elhorga who after Manual Dallan lost the ball the way was left open for a sprint down the wing and touch down.
The 25-0 score line does not perhaps reflect the calibre of the Azzuri's effort but after the match Italian prop Andrea Lo Cicero said he was convinced that it would only be a question of time before Italy's attack became as effective as their defence.
It was the first time that Italy had never scored any points in a Six Nations match but it will be encouraging for the Azzuri that they conceded one less try against France than Ireland the week before. Fir President Giancarlo Dondi believes Italy's Six Nations really begins against Scotland and on the basis of today's game they can go into the tournament fired with hope.