France keep Championship hopes alive
March 19, 2005
David Marty dives in to score his second try
© Getty Images
It was summer in Rome at the stadio Flaminio for Italy's final encounter against France in this year's Six Nations. After a slow first half France were ruthless. Italy collapsed in the second half and conceded 7 tries in their biggest defeat in the tournament, 13-56.
Both squads ran onto the field wearing shirts asking for the liberation of French journalist Florence Aubernas, and her assistant Hussain Hanun both being held captive in Iraq.
It was a crucial face saving match for Italy and their coach John Kirwan. After a run of four consecutive defeats in the tournament Italy were keen to salvage something from this year's Six Nations campaign.
France, on the other hand, had to play all out in the hope of winning by at least 42 points to snatch the championship title in the event of a Welsh defeat against the Irish.
France had all the aces but it was not until mid way through the second half that they began to use them.
The match was fiery and at times confused, stop start rugby .Early on France failed to capitalise as much as they should have and were not the clinical side of past games. They seemed nervous and looked unlikely to bag the 42 point difference that would leave them with a chance of clinching the championship title.
Italy started on the right foot when in the first minute Gert Peens sent a penalty flying through the uprights for an early Italian lead, however, Italian hopes were soon dashed. In the sixth minute Dimitri Yachvili levelled the score for France with a penalty and Italy seemed to go astray, outclassed and out run by the French.
The French backs were keen to show they meant business. A loose pass was picked up by Christophe Dominici on the wing who twisted and wriggled free from Italian winger Kaine Robertson. He off loaded to Yannick Nyanga for a touch down in the corner. Yachvili added the points for the conversion.
In the 14th minute Bortolami was sin binned and Italy, with one man down conceded their second try. Dominici once again was pitiless in underlining the Italian weakness of missing crucial tackles. Another costly missed tackle by Robertson opened the way for Yannick Jauzion to go over for France's second try.
Kaine Robertson, however, was quick to redeemed himself by intercepting a French pass within his own 22 . He spurted wings and flew the full length of the field for a Italy's first try. Peens converted.
With only seven points separating the two sides Italy seemed to find heart and encouraged by a cheering crowd seemed to momentarily shake the French.
Both teams suffered the loss of key players , for Italy class prop Andrea Lo Cicero limped off with a calf injury while French n° 11 Dominici was stretchered off unconscious after being squeezed in a vice like tackle. He was to regain consciousness in the ambulance on the way to hospital.
The French were quick to get back into stride with their backs using the full width of the field. Julien Lahrrague found the way open for Les Bleus' third try and his first for his country after a one man overlap left him in space on the wing .Yachvili converted.
Italy had a photocopy start to the second half with Kurt Peens keeping the Azzuri in touch 13-24 by slotting a penalty. Two penalties in quick succession from the lethal boot of Yachvili began to stretch the French lead and the Azzuri defence showed signs of coming unstitched.
Unlucky France had a try by Cedric Heymans unjustly disallowed for putting a foot out but moments later justice was seen to be done when new cap David Marty broke through Italian lines for his first try.
As the game progressed an increasingly weary Italy faded fast and struggled to hold the French at bay .In the end the flood gates opened and France ran riot scoring three break away tries in ten minutes by Jerome Thion, David Marty and Piere Mignoni. Kicking machine Yachvili came away with an impressive 7 out of 8.
After the match John Kirwan was adamant that he wanted to remain at the helm of the Azzuri but with Italy bringing home yet another wooden spoon, his future with the team looks anything but secure.
Italy: 13 Try: Robertson Con: Peens Pen: Peens (2)
France: 49 Tries: Nyanga, Jauzion, Laharrague, Marty (2), Lamboley, Mignoni Con: Yachvili (4), Michalak (2) Pen: Yachvili (2)
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