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Six Nations: Italy 22-21 France

Italy (6) 22
Try: Masi Con: Bergamasco Pens: Bergamasco 5
France (8) 21
Tries: Clerc, Parra Con: Parra Pens: Parra 3

Mirco Bergamasco

Extended highlights - Italy 22-21 France

By James Standley

Italy secured their biggest ever win as they came from behind to beat France for the first time in the Six Nations.

Mirco Bergamasco gave Italy an early lead but a Vincent Clerc try and Morgan Parra penalty made it 8-3 to France.

A second Bergamasco penalty cut the gap but Parra added his second penalty and converted his own try to make it 18-6.

Italy hit back through an Andrea Masi try and Bergamasco's boot, and although Parra landed a third kick, two more Bergamasco penalties saw Italy home.

When France went 18-6 ahead with 30 minutes remaining it seemed as though Italy were going to slip quietly to defeat.

But they found new reserves of passion to secure only their second win in 32 games against their continental neighbours and their first on home soil, their sole previous triumph coming in 1997 when they defeated France 40-32 in Grenoble.

Former England and Lions legend Jeremy Guscott said the Azzurri were well worth their historic win after near misses against Ireland and Wales in Rome earlier in the tournament.

Mallett emotional after first win over France

"I thought it was going to be the same result when Bergamasco missed those two kicks in the second half, but Italy dug deep and deserved their victory. It was absolutely fantastic," said the BBC pundit.

For France, the defending Grand Slam champions, it is another chastening result in a difficult season for coach Marc Lievremont, who has been heavily criticised for his constantly changing team selections and conservative approach.

Hammered at home by Australia in the autumn and beaten by old enemies England last time out, defeat by a nation they have always regarded as very much the little brother when it comes to rugby will not go down well with the volatile French rugby public.

The hosts had made seven changes, possibly with an eye on a potential Wooden Spoon decider against Scotland in their final game, but despite Italy's reputation as fine scrummagers, France soon established dominance up front.

Bergamasco, who landed six kicks out of eight, put the hosts ahead with an early penalty, but Les Bleus did not trail for long.

They hit back with a fine try sparked initially by Francois Trinh-Duc's interception, and although Italy managed to clear their lines, Maxime Medard initiated a superb counter-attack.

The full-back beat several men on a mazy run up to the Italian 10m line, France then swept the ball across field to Clerc and the veteran French flyer chipped over Gonzalo Canale and won the race to touch down.

Parra could not convert from wide out and minutes later the French were denied a second try after they won a scrum against the head for the second time in quick succession.

Italy players celebrate

Historic win for Italy sparks wild celebrations

Aurelien Rougerie tried to burst over under the posts but the Clermont Auvergne captain lost the ball as he tried to stretch over.

Parra stretched the visitors' lead with a simple penalty after another powerful scrum but Bergamasco cut the gap to 8-6 at the break as he replied in kind.

Italy started the second half brightly with fly-half Luciano Orquera springing Masi through the midfield to spark a threatening attack, but it came to an end when Orquera kicked possession away with a poor grubber 10m from the visitors' line.

It seemed emblematic of an inability to take their chances which looked like costing Italy dear, and the visitors soon made them pay as Parra, who had hit the post shortly before the break, slotted his second penalty after the hosts played themselves into trouble in their own 22 rather than clear their lines.

Despite their less than dazzling form France were looking the more dangerous team with ball in hand and they secured their second try with half an hour to play.

Trinh-Duc stepped through a crowded Italy midfield before feeding Parra to cross under the posts for his first international try.

With the number nine adding the conversion to make it 18-6 it looked as though France were on their way, and Italy's cause was not helped when Bergamasco failed to hit the target with two kickable penalties.

But just before the hour mark blind-side flanker Alessandro Zanni and winger Tommaso Benvenuti opened France up down the left and although the 20-year-old Benvenuti was brought down five metres out, Italy recycled and Masi scored down the blind-side.

Bergamasco rediscovered his kicking boots to convert from the touchline and when he added a penalty four minutes later the hosts were suddenly back within two points.

Parisse hails 'dream' victory over France

It was an extraordinary turnaround and although Parra extended France's lead to five points with his third penalty, Bergamasco replied in kind to keep the hosts right in the hunt as the game entered the last 10 minutes.

The decisive moment came with five minutes left on the clock when Italy were awarded a penalty wide out on the left.

Bergamasco stepped up to drill the ball between the posts but there was still time for France to hit back.

They manoeuvred the chance for a drop-goal but failed to take it, before being awarded the put-in at three consecutive scrums.

Twice the front rows stood up with Italy on the retreat but referee Bryce Lawrence declined to award the visitors a penalty.

When the French were forced to pick up from the third scrum Imanol Harinordoquy was collared, the ball would not emerge from the ruck and Lawrence blew the final whistle.

It sparked a roar from the crowd worthy of the Colosseum as the Azzurri and their delirious fans prepared to celebrate a famous victory long into the Roman night.

Italy: Masi; Benvenuti, Canale, Garcia, Bergamasco; Orquera, Semenzato; Lo Cicero, Festuccia, Castrogiovanni, Dellape, Del Fava, Zanni, Barbieri, Parisse.

Replacements: Burton for Orquera (57), Perugini for Lo Cicero (47), Ghiraldini for Festuccia (47), Geldenhuys for Dellape (53), Derbyshire for Barbieri (57).

Not Used: Canavosio, McLean.

France: Medard; Huget, Rougerie, Jauzion, Clerc; Trinh-Duc, Parra; Marconnet, Servat, Mas, Pierre, Nallet, Dusautoir, Bonnaire, Chabal.

Replacements: Traille for Jauzion (70), Guirado for Servat (61), Ducalcon for Mas (40), Thion for Nallet (56), Harinordoquy for Chabal (56).

Not Used: Tomas, Poitrenaud.

Att: 28,000

Ref: Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand).

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see also
Mallett proud of 'huge' Italy win
12 Mar 11 |  Rugby Union
Italy v France stats
12 Mar 11 |  Rugby Union
Yachvili ruled out of Italy game
10 Mar 11 |  Rugby Union
Italy 16-24 Wales
26 Feb 11 |  Rugby Union
England 17-9 France
26 Feb 11 |  Rugby Union
Six Nations on the BBC
05 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union

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