Six Nations 2015: France too good for Italy in Rome

By James StandleyBBC Sport
Six Nations 2015: Italy 0-29 France Highlights
Italy (0) 0
France (9) 29
Tries: Maestri, Bastareaud Cons: Plisson 2 Pens: Lopez 2, Spedding, Plisson 2

France kept alive their remote Six Nations title hopes as they maintained their composure the better of the two sides in wet conditions in Italy.

Early in the second half France led 12-0 with three different kickers - Scott Spedding, Camille Lopez and Jules Plisson - having hit the target.

A superb converted try sparked by Spedding and finished by lock Yoann Maestri saw them stretch clear.

And Mathieu Bastareaud's injury-time try gave the score a further gloss.

Three-horse race?
TeamPointsPoints differenceFinal-day match
England6+37France (h)
Ireland6+33Scotland (a)
Wales6+12Italy (a)
France4+22England (a)
Check out who needs what on the final Six Nations weekend

The victory - and the boost it gives to their points difference - means that should Ireland and Wales both lose on the last weekend, France would secure the title if they win away to England at Twickenham in the final game of the tournament.

It would represent a remarkable turnaround for Les Bleus, who have been very poor this Six Nations and who, having lost their two previous games in Rome against Italy, went into the match with some trepidation.

Traditional underdogs Italy, by contrast, won away to Scotland last time out and were keen to mark the occasion of captain Sergio Parisse's national record 112th cap with a hat-trick of wins over their Continental rivals, but things soon went wrong for the hosts.

They lost fly-half Kelly Haimona before the game, his replacement Tommaso Allan was injured in the warm-up but started, and they were down to their third-choice fly-half midway through the first half.

The limping Allan had already missed a simple kick and when Luciano Orquera hit the woodwork, it seemed to knock the belief out of the hosts.

Six Nations 2015

They proceeded to lose possession at will, missed far too tackles and struggled to play with any cohesion in admittedly difficult conditions.

France, initially, were no better but the longer the game went on the more they improved and, although they never really got out of third gear, once their array of kickers had put them 9-0 up at the break, there was only going to be one winner.

Spedding was happy to show adventure from the back and it was his incisive counter that created the chance for Maestri to range over for his first France try.

Parisian Plisson converted and was also on target as replacement centre Bastareaud used every one of his 18 stone to barge over at the death.

With just two wins - compared to the three of England, Ireland and Wales - the French are rank outsiders to lift the Six Nations title.

But if they were to beat England in London on the final weekend, with Italy somehow downing Wales and Ireland losing in Scotland, Les Bleus could, incredibly, win the title.

Sergio Parisse trudges off holding his face in his hands
Sergio Parisse's celebrations at setting a new Italy caps record were overshadowed by a thumping defeat
Yoann Maestri scored for France against Italy
Toulouse lock Yoann Maestri's maiden France try effectively killed the match as a contest
Mathieu Bastareaud smiles after scoring his try for France against Italy
And Mathieu Bastareaud's late second gave Les Bleus a welcome boost to their points difference

Italy: McLean; Sarto, Morisi, Masi, Venditti; Allan, Gori; Aguero, Ghiraldini, Chistolini, Biagi, Furno, Minto, Vunisa, Parisse.

Replacements: Bacchin for Morisi (37), Orquera for Allan (13), Palazzani for Gori (72), De Marchi for Aguero (32), Manici for Ghiraldini (58), Cittadini for Chistolini (50), Geldenhuys for Biagi (50), Barbini for Parisse (74).

France: Spedding; Huget, Fickou, Mermoz, Nakaitaci; Lopez, Tillous-Borde; Ben Arous, Guirado, Mas, Flanquart, Maestri, Dusautoir, Le Roux, Goujon.

Replacements: Bastareaud for Fickou (69), Plisson for Lopez (41), Kockott for Tillous-Borde (63), Debaty for Ben Arous (57), Kayser for Guirado (53), Slimani for Mas (50), Taofifenua for Maestri (64), Chouly for Goujon (72).

Att: 52,000

Ref: JP Doyle (Ireland).

Match stats
5 (2)Scrums won (lost)9 (2)
17 (2)Line-outs won (lost)8 (4)
17Pens conceded11
61 (1)Rucks/mauls won (lost)74 (1)
32Possession kicked32
104 (9)Tackles made (missed)79 (1)
201Metres made506
1Line breaks6
Provided by Accenture

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