Romain Ntamack scored 15 points to help France to a hard-fought bonus-point 35-22 victory over Italy in Saint-Denis on Sunday. DYLAN JACK reports.
This game was a tough one for the hosts as the score suggests. While France raced into the lead in the first 20 minutes and looked set to replicate Wales’ disintegration of the Italians, they certainly had to battle for every metre on Sunday.
Fabien Galthie will be thankful for the efforts of his pack as well as Ntamack. The young flyhalf slotted two penalties, two conversions and crucially scored during a time when France were coming under pressure.
To Italy’s credit they rallied impressively after the opening quarter and got stuck in physically, making plenty of metres through their forwards. A well-worked try from magical wing Matteo Minozzi to go with a conversion and penalty from Tommaso Allan brought them to within four points of the lead.
There was enough in this display to suggest that Italy should give head coach Franco Smith time, as the changes he is busy implementing are clearly having an impact.
France’s defensive effort in the second-half of their win against England was bound to have taken its toll. They are clearly still adjusting to a more high-intensity plan under new defence coach Shaun Edwards.
Despite scoring just before the break, the home side tapered off badly in the second half and were unusually sloppy at the set-piece. However, Ntamack’s try not only put some space between themselves and their opponents, but also ensured them of the bonus-point.
While Italy threatened another comeback when Federico Zani grounded the ball against the post, it was all for naught as Baptiste Serin scored on the counter-attack to leave them with too much to do in the closing 10 minutes.
France – Tries: Teddy Thomas, Charles Ollivon, Grégory Alldritt, Romain Ntamack, Baptiste Serin. Conversions: Ntamack. Penalties: Ntamack (2)
Italy – Tries: Matteo Minozzi, Federico Zani, Mattia Bellini. Conversions: Tommaso Allan (2). Penalty: Allan.
France – 15 Anthony Bouthier, 14 Teddy Thomas, 13 Arthur Vincent, 12 Gael Fickou, 11 Vincent Rattez, 10 Romain Ntamack, 9 Antoine Dupont, 8 Grégory Alldritt, 7 Charles Ollivon (c), 6 François Cros, 5 Paul Willemse, 4 Bernard Le Roux, 3 Mohamed Haouas, 2 Julien Marchand, 1 Cyril Baille
Subs: 16 Peato Mauvaka, 17 Jefferson Poirot, 18 Demba Bamba, 19 Romain Taofifenua, 20 Boris Palu, 21 Cameron Woki, 22 Baptiste Serin, 23 Matthieu Jalibert
Italy – 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Mattia Bellini, 13 Luca Morisi, 12 Carlo Canna, 11 Matteo Minozzi, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Callum Braley, 8 Abraham Steyn, 7 Sebastian Negri, 6 Jake Polledri, 5 Niccolò Cannone, 4 Alessandro Zanni, 3 Giosuè Zilocchi, 2 Luca Bigi (c), 1 Andrea Lovotti
Subs: 16 Federico Zani, 17 Danilo Fischetti, 18 Marco Riccioni, 19 Dean Budd, 20 Federico Ruzza, 21 Giovanni Licata, 22 Guglielmo Palazzani, 23 Giulio Bisegni
Photo: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images