France came from behind to claim a 40-18 bonus-point win against Italy at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome on Saturday.
The five log points moved France past Wales into third spot on the log, while Italy will finish the tournament with the wooden spoon.
The hosts made the perfect start, with inspirational captain Sergio Parisse scoring in the second minute. Flyhalf Carla Canno took on France’s rush defence and made a mini-break, sending Parisse away with a textbook offload.
That was followed up by a penalty either way right before the 20-minute mark for an 8-3 scoreline in favour of the hosts.
But in a bizarre two-minute spell, the momentum suddenly swung, as France scored 10 points in a typically French flair manner. The backs ran the ball from deep, resulting in a magical score for inside centre Gael Fickou, who showed great spatial awareness to go around the last defender. Camille Lopez added the conversion, and three further penalties for a 13-11 lead at the break.
That advantage could have been extended had scrumhalf Baptiste Serin had decent support runners alongside, him following a searing midfield break, but Italy managed to haul him in to prevent further damage.
It was one-way traffic in the second half as Les Bleus put the Azzurri to the sword. Lopez continued his perfect kicking display with a fourth penalty goal, while Louis Picamoles, Eddy Ben Arous and Brice Dulin all scored tries.
Angelo Esposito did cross for Italy after the hooter, but it was scant consolation for the hosts.
Italy – Try: Sergio Parisse, Angelo Esposito. Conversion: Carlo Canna. Penalties: Canna (2).
France – Tries: Gael Fickou, Virimi Vakatawa, Louis Picamoles, Brice Dulin. Conversions: Camille Lopez (4). Penalties: Lopez (4).
Italy – 15 Edoardo Padovani, 14 Angelo Esposito, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 Luke McLean, 11 Giovanbattista Venditti, 10 Carla Canna, 9 Edoardo Gori, 8 Sergio Parisse(c), 7 Simone Favaro, 6 Abraham Steyn, 5 Dries van Schalkwyk, 4 Marco Fuser, 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Andrea Lovotti.
Subs: 16 Tommaso D’Apice, 17 Sami Panico, 18 Dario Chistolini, 19 George Biagi, 20 Maxime Mbanda, 21 Giorgio Bronzini, 22 Tommaso Benvenuti, 23 Luca Sperandio.
France – 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Nao Nakaitaci, 13 Remi Lamerat, 12 Gaél Fickou, 11 Virimi Vakatawa, 10 Camille Lopez, 9 Baptiste Serin, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Kevin Gourdon, 6 Fabien Sanconnie, 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Julien Le Devedec, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Guilhem Guirado (c), 1 Cyril Baille.
Subs: 16 Christopher Tolofua, 17 Uini Atonio, 18 Eddy Ben Arous, 19 Paul Jedrasiak, 20 Berhard le Roux, 21 Antoine Dupont, 22 François Trinh Duc, 23 Yoann Huget.
Photo: Gabriel Bouys/Getty Images