Slam in touching distance


PARIS, March 15- France stayed on course for their first Grand Slam since 2004 on Sunday as they outclassed Italy 46-20 in their Six Nations clash at the Stade de France.
France ran in six tries, including two by centre David Marty and one from Yannick Jauzion, which took him to over 100 points for his country, while Morgan Parra kicked 16 points as Italy scored two late tries.

Victory sets the French up for a Grand slam finale against old foes England at the Stade de France next Saturday.

France had wrapped up the match within 25 minutes as Imanol Harinordoquy and Marty ran in three tries, the latter a brace to celebrate his recall to the starting line-up.

However, Harinordoquy warned that there were things to work on ahead of the England clash.

"After scoring those three tries we lacked a certain amount of intensity and discipline which we cannot do against England," said the 30-year-old, who won Grand Slams in 2002 and 2004.

"Obivously we are very very happy to have beaten Italy, who are regardless of the result a hard team to play against."

Italy coach Nick Mallett was honest about the performance by his team.

"That is the worst we have played for a year," said the English-born naturalised South African.

"The first-half couldn’t have been worse. A lot of players played their worst match for a long time and we made France look better than they are."

Parra created the first try for Harinordoquy, selling a dummy and offloading to the Biarritz No8, who broke an Italian tackle to cross the line for his 12th try in his 60th test.

France’s task was made easier when centre Gonzalo Garcia was yellow-carded by no-nonsense Irish referee Alan Lewis for an illegal block on Marc Andreu.

Garcia, who suffered a bloodied nose for his trouble, will not have pleased Mallett as it was the second time he has been sin-binned in this season’s tournament having seen yellow in the opener against Ireland.

The visitors were made to pay almost immediately as the French stole the ball from an Italian lineout and then saw Francois Trinh-Duc’s long pass come to Marty, who bulldozed his way over the line after Gonzalo Canale missed a tackle – Parra converted to make it 17-0.

The Perpignan centre was then at the end of a brilliant attacking move started by a typical piece of flamboyance by fullback Clement Poitrenaud, who saw a gap and went for it.

He broke a couple of tackles, and then passed to Harinordoquy, who timed his offload to Marty to go over in the corner – Parra failed to convert to leave the score at 22-0.

The Italians finally got on the scoreboard four minutes from the break when Mirco Bergamasco converted a penalty.

Parra and Bergamasco both landed early penalties in the second-half to make it 25-6.

France ran in two more tries before the hour mark, first through Andreu who beat Garcia’s attempted tackle to touch down.

Then he turned provider, off-loading to Jauzion, who may be slower than when he won the Grand Slam in 2004 but still possesses enough power to run in from 25 metres out – Parra converted both to make it 39-6.

The replacements got into the action as Julien Malzieu made a great run into Italian territory and passed to Lapandry, who crossed over for the try – Parra converted for 46-6.

The Italians did at least show some fight towards the end as Carlos del Fava was at the end of a good move as the lock recorded his first try in 44 tests – Bergamasco converted for 46-13.

Pablo Canavosio also touched down with a fine individual effort to add to the try he scored against Scotland. Bergamasco added the conversion.