France 34-17 Italy: France secure Six Nations victory in Marseille
Last Updated: 24/02/18 11:07am
France beat Italy 34-17 to record their first victory of the 2018 Six Nations Championship in Marseille.
Jacques Brunel's side scored tries through Paul Gabrillagues, Hugo Bonneval and Mathieu Bastareaud.
Scrum-half Maxime Machenaud contributed 17 points off the tee as the national side played their first Six Nations home game outside of Paris.
France had lost their last eight Tests prior to this encounter and the result marks Brunel's first win in charge.
Les Bleus settled early nerves inside the Stade Velodrome when Gabrillagues scored his first international try in the corner in the fifth minute after a fruitful lineout maul.
On this occasion Machenaud was unable to add the extras, instead he sent his tricky conversion attempt just wide.
Italy were given a penalty three minutes later and, after opting to kick for touch, they drove over the line and referee Wayne Barnes awarded the visitors a penalty try for a collapsed maul.
A couple of blockbusting runs from wing Rémy Grosso got the home crowd on their feet but eventually came to nothing before a Machenaud penalty handed France an 8-7 lead in the 29th minute.
France continued to search for opportunities to score and came close six minutes before the break when, less than two metres from the line, the ball hit Bastareaud's knee, handing Italy the chance to recover.
France were awarded another penalty on the brink of half-time and their scrum-half made no mistake, extending his side's lead to 11-7.
The home side started the second half brightly and could have extended their lead in the 43rd minute but after carrying the ball deep into Italian territory, fly-half Lionel Beauxis misjudged his pass wide to utilise the overlap and the ball was knocked on.
After Beauxis missed a drop goal attempt minutes later, France went back for the penalty and Machenaud put them 14-7 in front.
Italy reduced the deficit in the 50th minute when Tommaso Allan slotted over a straightforward kick at goal after Sergio Parisse had been tackled off the ball.
The visitors went on the attack, with Sebastian Negri bursting towards France's 22, but they conceded a penalty and the hosts were then able to come forward.
And a well-worked try gave France breathing space in the 60th minute as Bonneval went over after good work by Bastareaud and Grosso in the build-up.
After converting the try, Racing 92's Machenaud then kicked two further penalties to put France 27-10 ahead before leaving the field as the hosts made a series of changes.
France scored another try in the 73rd minute when Bastareaud powered over to complete a good move which started with Marco Tauleigne's break forward. Francois Trinh-Duc converted to send France 34-10 in front.
Italy were down but not out and they hit back with a late try through Matteo Minozzi in the 79th minute, with Carlo Canna adding the extras.
Man of the Match
France's victory sees them gain their first win under Jacques Brunel and they delivered it despite making a host of changes in their backline.
The result should provide them with a key boost before hosting England back at the Stade de France in Round 4.
The performance of Mathieu Bastareaud in the centres was a notable one. He punched holes and offloaded well in attack whilst also gaining traction at the breakdown.
France's level of precision was poor. They created numerous try-scoring opportunities but fluffed their lines far too often. In future matches, against other sides, that level of imprecision will be punished.
For Italy, their discipline was an issue, in the same manner that France found it tough going in Round 2 against Scotland, and that must be fixed.