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Last Updated:  Sunday, 23 March, 2003, 15:44 GMT
France punish passionate Italy
Italy 27-53 France

Damian Traille dives over for his first try
Damian Traille dives over for his first try in Rome
France demolished Italy in a free-flowing game in Rome to finally show some of the form they were expected to display in this year's RBS Six Nations championship.

Tries from Serge Betsen, Damian Traille (2), Aurelien Rougerie (2), Frederic Michalak and Thomas Castaignede punished the Italians, who spent most of the first hour on the back foot.

Scrum-half Dimitri Yachvili enjoyed a superb day with the boot to finish the match with a personal tally of 18 points.

The home side did hit back through tries from Ramiro Pez, Mirco Bergamasco, Aaron Persico and Matthew Phillips.

But despite looking the better side for much of the second period were ultimately left with too much to do.

Italy struggled to gain any meaningful possession early on and the few scraps they did win were quickly turned over by an impressive French back-row.

Italy 27: Tries: Pez, Bergamasco, Persico, Phillips
Pen: Pez
Conv: Pez (2)
France 53: Tries: Betsen, Traille (2), Rougerie (2), Michalak, Castaignede
Pen: Yachvili (2)
Conv: Yachvili (6)

The visitors opened the scoring after just three minutes when Traille fed Betsen who ran over for the first five pointer.

Yachvili added the extras and grabbed a further three points when Italy were penalised for hands in the ruck deep inside their 22.

At 10-0 down, John Kirwan's side looked helpless against a ferocious French onslaught.

But if the New Zealander thought it could not get any worse, Traille proved him immediately wrong with a quickfire double to punish some woeful Italian defending.

We did what we had to do in the first-half and I am satisfied with that
French coach Bernard Laporte
Two conversions and a late first-half penalty took Yachvili's total to 14 points before Aurelien Rougerie added France's fourth thanks to some strong running from number eight Imanol Harinordoquy.

Seconds later, Michalak added yet another after Olivier Magne charged down a poor Paolo Vaccari clearance.

With half-time approaching, Pez grabbed a consolation try after a superb individual break, but even his conversion could do little to dent an impressive French lead.

Any thoughts Italy had of regrouping were instantly dispelled when Castaignede scorched over seconds after the break.

Yachvili slotted his sixth conversion to push his side two points shy of their half-century, before Italy finally found some form.

Mirco Bergamasco (centre)
Mirco Bergamasco (centre) hit back with a second-half try for Italy

For the best part of 10 minutes France struggled to get their hands on the ball and Bergamasco rewarded Italy's perseverance with his side's second try.

At 48-15 down there was never any doubt of an upset, but it did not stop the Azzurri from hitting back again when Persico grabbed a third for his side almost immediately from the re-start.

Pez's kick pushed his side up to 22 points - before Rougerie ran over to ease the defending Six Nations champions past the 50-point mark.

It took us 45 minutes to wake up
Italy coach John Kirwan
Italy had impressed in the second-half, after a poor opening period and were not to be denied the last word, however.

With seconds remaining Philips exploited space on the blind side from a scrum on the French 10-metre line.

But depite their fightback they had let themselves down in the opening-half - as they did against Twickenham - a fact that will not be lost on Kirwan in the build-up to their final game against Scotland.

Italy: M. Bergamasco, Mazzucato, Vaccari, Raineri, Dallan, Dominguez, Troncon, Lo Cicero, Festuccia, Martinez, Bezzi, Giacheri, De Rossi, Persico, Phillips.

Replacements: Ongaro, Castrogiovanni, Dellape, Palmer, Mazzantini, Pez, Masi.

France: Poitrenaud, Rougerie, Castaignede, Traille, Garbajosa, Michalak, Yachvili, Crenca, Ibanez, Marconnet, Pelous, Brouzet, Betsen, Magne, Harinordoqui.

Replacements: Rue, Milloud, Auradou, Tabacco, Elissalde, Merceron, Clerc.

Referee: Nigel Williams (Wales)

France's Thomas Castaignede
"We are very happy"

Italy coach John Kirwan
"This team's got to mature"

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