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Friday, February 23, 2018

Misfiring France labour to crucial victory over Italy in Marseille

After a run of eight straight defeats, France finally secured their first win of this year's 6 Nations campaign, beating Italy 34-17 at the Stade Vélodrome in Marseille on Friday night. 

Jacques Brunel's side were in desperate need of a victory in the tournament, having fallen short against Ireland and Scotland in the opening rounds, but started unconvincingly versus a bouyed Italian outfit.

Tries from Paul Gabrillagues, Hugo Bonneval and Matthieu Bastareaud helped Les Bleus across the line, but they fell short of earning a bonus point in the closing stages.

France miss golden opportunities

It was a frankly abysmal opening 40 minutes of rugby from both sides; Italy struggled to secure any meaningful possession and territory, while the French simply bottled three clear scoring chances.

Despite Italy responding immediately to Gabrillagues' fifth minute score through a penalty try, France pounded the opposition line. They first coughed up a certain try when back-rower Wencelas Lauret - who otherwise had an excellent game - failed to exploit a three-on-one overlap five metres out.

Bastareaud then had to merely walk over the line following an off-load from Gabrillagues, but a careless knock-on typified a fraught and lacklustre first half from France.

Winger Rémy Grosso had a strong game but also contributed to his side's frustration in the first half with a foot in touch after a promising burst down the far touchline.

Italy inaccuracies help hosts strike

Conor O'Shea's men were competitive for much of the match but were ultimately undone by a lack of precision and discipline.

The game poised at 14-10, France eventually flexed their muscles with a great try from full-back Bonneval, this time Bastareaud's pass was pin-point and was the beginning of the end for the visitors.

Bastareaud's offload was excellent but the centre's try - France's third - was the match-winner. The 20st Toulon player proved too powerful for the Italian forwards to strike from close-range.

That was that for the Azzurri despite a late try from Matteo Minozzi, which acted as mere consolation.


France's first win in 343 days ought to have been well received, but if anything, it plastered over the obvious cracks in the wall of a side that is really struggling at the moment.

Their tries were an indication that the talent and execution of Brunel's men is still clearly there but the level of inconsistency in the starting XV is only hurting the squad.

For Italy, their performance for the first 50 minutes was hugely promising and there was still hope they could steal an unlikely victory away from home.

But alas, O'Shea's side is still very much behind the leading contenders in the championship and will need to brace themselves for another Wooden Spoon this season.

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Posted by Stephen Brunsdon at 7:49 pm | View Comments (11)

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