PARIS, France, Feb 9 – France staved off a comeback to beat Italy 35-22 on Sunday and secure their second win from two matches in this year’s Six Nations in strong winds caused by Storm Ciara.
The fixture went ahead in blustery conditions as a variety of sporting events across northern Europe were postponed due to strong winds caused by the powerful storm.
Romain Ntamack and Baptiste Serin scored the pick of les Bleus’ tries as they secured a bonus point.
“We did what we needed to do even if not everything was perfect today,” said France captain Charles Ollivon. “There are a few things to sort out up front, but it was better at scrum time.”
Fleet-footed winger Matteo Minozzi, replacement hooker Federico Zani and Mattia Bellini crossed for the Azzurri who stretched their winless run in the competition to 24 matches.
“We brought a performance and we showed how strong our attack can be,” Italy captain Luca Bigi told BBC.
“We scored a try with a driving maul and one in the last minute and we never give up. That is a positive we can bring to the next game and I’m so proud to be a part of this team.
“We conceded too many turnovers last week but we were better today. The effort we showed on the pitch was amazing.”
The hosts’ head coach Fabien Galthie made just one change from the side which beat England last weekend as one-time international Arthur Vincent replaced injured Virimi Vakatawa at outside centre.
Veteran Azzurri lock Alessandro Zanni, who was set to win his 119th cap, was ruled out 10 minutes before kick-off due to an injury suffered in the pre-match warm up, with Treviso’s Dean Budd moving up from the bench.
New Zealand born full-back Jayden Hayward started after being among the substitutes for last Saturday’s 42-0 hammering at Wales in the tournament opener.
It took just three minutes for the home side to open the scoring as fly-half Ntamack, son of ex-international Emile, slotted a penalty goal.
The first test of the blustery conditions came three minutes later as the Azzurri spilled Anthony Bouthier’s up and under handing the hosts further good filed position.
– Standing ovation –
They stayed in the Italy 22m as Ntamack grubber kicked into the visitors’ in-goal area and Thomas dotted down with one hand for his 11 try in 18 Tests after seven minutes.
France’s second try came 10 minutes later as captain Charles Ollivon snuck over from two metres.
Ntamack missed the touchline conversion as the wind held his effort in the air before it hit the cross bar and the home side led 13-0 inside the opening quarter.
The upbeat Parisian crowd broke into a Mexican wave shortly after but were quietened by an Azzurri response after 25 minutes as Minozzi claimed his 10th Test try and his side’s first points of this season’s tournament.
Former Scotland under-20 fly-half Tommaso Allan slotted the extras before closing the gap to 13-10 with a penalty kick seconds before the half-hour mark.
Ntamack rediscovered his kicking boots with a three-pointer after 32 minutes before Gregory Alldritt put any hopes of an Italy comeback to bed just before the break.
Scrum-half Antoine Dupont found the No. 8 out wide for the La Rochelle back-rower to cross unopposed.
Ntamack’s conversion, which hit both posts, made it 23-10 as les Bleus were given a standing ovation at half-time.
Toulouse playmaker Ntamack secured a bonus point for his side with a lovely solo effort from a powerful France maul with a quarter of the game to play but missed the extras.
The Azzurri were given second-half hope as Federico Zani’s 65th minute converted try made it an 11-point game.
But Serin, who was making his first appearance in this year’s tournament after being an unused replacement against England, made sure of the victory with a superb individual try with eight minutes to go.
Winger Vincent Rattez was carried off with three minutes to play before Bellini’s consolation effort 30 seconds from the full-time whistle.