Italy 24-29 France: Les Bleus just hold on for Round 1 Six Nations victory after huge scare in Rome
Thibaud Flament, Thomas Ramos, Ethan Dumortier, Matthieu Jalibert scored tries for France, while Ange Capuozzo, a penalty try and the boot of Tommaso Allan saw Italy hit back throughout but just fall short at Stadio Olimpico; Italy next face England at Twickenham; France travel to Ireland
By Michael Cantillon
Last Updated: 06/02/23 6:03am
Reigning Six Nations Grand Slam champions France survived an almighty scare away to Italy on Sunday, just holding on to bank a 29-24 Round 1 victory in Rome.
The first half saw France make the perfect start as lock Thibaud Flament (5), full-back Thomas Ramos (19) and debutant wing Ethan Dumortier (27) each scored tries to leave them 19-6 ahead inside the first half-hour, but Italy hit back before the break.
Italy full-back Ange Capuozzo scored a stunning try in response, before fly-half Tommaso Allan added a further penalty to his opening two efforts to leave the Azzurri within five points.
Italy 24-29 France - Score summary
Italy - Tries: Capuozzo (32), Penalty Try (52). Pens: Allan (14, 23, 40+1, 62).
France - Tries: Flament (5), Ramos (19), Dumortier (27), Jalibert (67). Cons: Ramos (6, 28, 68). Pens: Ramos (47). Yellow cards: Ollivon (52).
The second period saw Italy match France for the majority, with a penalty try and yellow card against France flanker Charles Ollivon bringing them within a single point after a Ramos penalty for the visitors.
An Allan penalty put Italy into the lead with 18 minutes to go, but France replacement Matthieu Jalibert came on to score the crucial winner five minutes later.
Italy put France under huge pressure in the time remaining, but just fell short after a brilliant effort.
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The Test began in positive fashion for Fabien Galthie's France, as Flament charged down Italy scrum-half Stephen Varney less than five minutes in, before recovering the bouncing ball and racing in for a soft score.
Italy were forced to survive more pressure against them early on, before Allan got them onto the board with a penalty after France tighthead Uini Atonio was pinged for failing to release in a jackal attempt.
Ollivon thought he was in for a try soon after, but a TMO review proved the back-row had lost control in the act of grounding. France didn't have to wait long for a second score, though, as a Romain Ntamack cross-field kick saw Capuozzo and Damian Penaud compete in the air, only for the ball to land perfectly for Ramos to dot down.
Allan added Italy's second penalty on 23 minutes as France were caught offside, but wing Dumortier scored France's third try within moments as another Ntamack kick-pass created it after No 8 Gregory Alldritt had pinched possession back in the 22.
Past the half-hour, Italy burst into life, however, as Capuozzo stepped and bamboozled Alldritt before diving acrobatically for the corner to score marvellously.
Allan missed the tough conversion, but the final kick of the half saw the Italy No 10 punish a France breakdown infringement to leave things 19-14 to the visitors at the break.
In a show of respect for the way Italy had fought back, France chose to kick for the posts the next time they forced a penalty for offside, as Ramos stretched the lead back out to eight points.
On 52 minutes, an Italy growing in confidence were back within a single point of France as Ollivon was penalised for coming in at the side and collapsing an Italy rolling maul metres from the try-line. Referee Matthew Carley sin-binned the France forward for the act too.
Ramos missed his next penalty attempt for France, and with 62 minutes on the clock Italy hit the front for the first time in the Test as Allan punished Flament being penalised for offside.
Five minutes later, Jalibert scored with France's clearest chance of a second half in which they struggled for large parts, stepping to finish smartly after collecting a Romain Taofifenua offload for the lead.
No further points would be scored, but France would be indebted to replacement back-row Sekou Macalou for a late breakdown turnover, and then their pack for strong maul defence within their 22 in the last play.
Italy next travel to face England at Twickenham next Sunday February 12 (3pm kick-off), in Round 2 of the Six Nations.
Italy Six Nations 2023 fixtures
|Sunday, February 5||Italy 24-29 France||3pm|
|Sunday, February 12||England vs Italy||3pm|
|Saturday, February 25||Italy vs Ireland||2.15pm|
|Saturday, March 11||Italy vs Wales||2.15pm|
|Saturday, March 18||Scotland vs Italy||12.30pm|
France are in action next Saturday for the second round of the championship, as they travel to face Ireland at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin (2.15pm kick-off).
France's Six Nations 2023 fixtures
|Sunday, February 5||Italy 24-29 France||3pm|
|Saturday, February 11||Ireland vs France||2.15pm|
|Sunday, February 26||France vs Scotland||3pm|
|Saturday, March 11||England vs France||4.45pm|
|Saturday, March 18||France vs Wales||2.45pm|