Six Nations: Italy beat tournament favourites France in opener
Last Updated: 04/02/13 2:52pm
Martin Castrogiovanni celebrates his try for the hosts
Fly-half Luciano Orquera inspired Italy to a shock 23-18 victory over France in their Six Nations opener in Rome.
France came into the game as tournament favourites after their displays in the autumn internationals, but were humbled by an Italy side which fully deserved their second win over Les Bleus in three years.
Orquera was the star of the show for Italy, setting up two tries and kicking 10 points, but the entire Italian side deserve plenty of credit for a display full of aggression and resilience.
The Zebre fly-half made the break in midfield after just four minutes which set up his skipper Sergio Parisse to stroll over in the corner for his 10th international try, then knocked over the conversion.
France hit back six minutes later after Frederic Michalak's high kick earned a scrum five metres out and after a series of forward thrusts, the ball was spread wide and Louis Picamoles finished superbly under pressure with a one-handed reach over the line.
Michalak missed the conversion and Orquera quickly stretched Italy's lead with a drop-goal and a penalty.
France enjoyed their best spell of pressure around the half-hour mark. Yoann Huget was driven over in a crowd of players and the video official awarded a five-metre scrum, with an offside resulting in a Michalak penalty.
Moments later Huget's burst and and offload for Benjamin Fall had the winger trotting in beneath the posts and Michalak's conversion gave France a 15-13 half-time lead.
The Italians strayed offside shortly after the re-start and Michalak stretched the lead, but he was then short with another penalty from 48 metres out.
A moment of magic from Orquera put the Azzurri ahead again, his wonderful offload close to the line giving Martin Castrogiovanni the chance to score from a metre out.
Orquera converted and a long-range drop-goal from Chris Burton pushed Italy out to 23-18.
France battered away for the final quarter without creating much against resilient and disciplined Italian defence, the final chance coming from two short-range scrums in the closing moments, but when the ball was spread wide Fall was forced into touch and the Italians had the victory.