France made it back-to-back victories at the start of their Six Nations campaign by claiming a bonus-point 35-22 triumph over Italy on Sunday.
Les Bleus overcame Rugby World Cup finalists England in their opening game at the Stade de France and saw off Italy to start with two straight wins for the first time since 2016.
Gregory Alldritt crossed on the stroke of half-time after Matteo Minozzi had reduced the arrears following early scores for Teddy Thomas and Charles Ollivon.
Romain Ntamack’s superb solo try then preceded a loss of concentration from France that was punished by Federico Zani.
Replacement scrum-half Baptiste Serin sealed the win with a dazzling individual effort, with Mattia Bellini’s 79th-minute score insufficient for Italy to get a losing bonus point.
— France Rugby (@FranceRugby) February 9, 2020
After opening the scoring with a penalty, Ntamack spotted Italy full-back Jayden Hayward in the defensive line and sent a grubber kick through for Thomas to touch down in the seventh minute.
Ntamack was unable to add the extras in high winds and missed another place kick before seeing his attempt to convert Ollivon’s 18th-minute try come back off the crossbar.
Italy made the most of a rare venture into France’s territory, Minozzi diving over in the right corner with Thomas punished for moving out of position.
Tommaso Allan’s boot reduced the deficit to three points but Antoine Dupont’s sensational pass sent Alldritt in on the left, with Ntamack needing a kind bounce off both uprights for his third successful kick.
Allan missed from the tee at the end of a spell of Italy pressure, but France moved quickly from a line-out and Ntamack spotted a gap to dart home before the hour mark.
Les Bleus sent five new forwards on from the bench and Zani dived at the base of the padding around the post in the 65th minute, but Italy were unable to salvage a first point since 2018.
The tension was eased when Serin took a quick tap penalty and chased down his own kick to cross in stunning fashion.
France lost Vincent Rattez to injury and saw Bellini touch down in the right corner at the death, but it was too late for Italy to avoid a 24th straight Six Nations loss.
Still some concerns for France
Les Bleus surged into a 24-point lead against England and had to withstand serious late pressure to hold on for the victory. They were guilty of conceding needless penalties to offer Italy chances to get back into the match in Paris, which will be a worry for coach Fabien Galthie.
Dupont on point
France’s electric start owed a lot to Dupont. His brilliant offload helped ignite the move that ended with Ollivon’s try and set up Alldritt’s with an excellent pass. He was at the heart of their most fluid moments.
Antoine Dupont with the vision
Gregory Alldritt with the finish
— Guinness Six Nations (@SixNationsRugby) February 9, 2020
Key Opta Facts
– France logged five tries in a Six Nations fixture for the first time since managing the same number against England in 2015 at Twickenham; they had not recorded that many on home soil in the tournament since 2010 (when they scored six versus Italy).
– France have now claimed five Test victories on home soil in succession; a seven-game winning run at home between November 2005 and March 2006 was the last time they put together a longer such run.
France face a major test with a trip to defending champions Wales in two weeks, while Italy head back to Rome to take on Scotland.
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