Six Nations: France score three second-half tries to see off Italy
By Rob Lancaster. Last Updated: 09/02/14 5:57pm
France produced a performance of two vastly contrasting halves to see off Italy 30-10 in Paris to round out the second week of this year's Six Nations.
Les Bleus made it two wins from two in 2014 thanks to three tries in the space of nine second-half minutes, Louis Picamoles, Wesley Fofana and Hugo Bonneval all touching down to turn what was a tight contest into a rout.
Tommaso Iannone grabbed a late consolation score for the Italians after team-mate Michele Rizzo had seen red for throwing punches at Rabah Slimani, who himself was sent off for use of the head.
The hosts had looked far from perfect during a disappointing opening half that was punctuated all too-often by referee Jaco Peyper's whistle.
Jean-Marc Doussain made the most of the plethora of penalties awarded to kick France into a 9-3 lead at the break, though at that stage there was no sign of what was to come.
Italy could - really should - have been closer at the midway point, Gonzalo Garcia twice failing with long-range efforts at the uprights. The first fell comfortably short, while the next by the centre had the distance but not the accuracy.
Fly-half Tommaso Allan also missed one of his two attempts, and the failures of their kickers undermined the Azzurri's hopes of registering a first ever triumph in the French capital.
They at least were still within touching distance after 40 minutes. By the time 52 had gone on the clock, France were home and dry.
Picamoles opened the floodgates when he somehow burst straight through a maul to touch down in the left corner, winger Leonardo Sarto getting back to tackle the number eight but proving unable to stop him reaching out and grounding the ball over the line.
Fofana was soon crossing on the opposite side of the field after breaking down the short side, and the centre turned from scorer to creator when he picked off a loose Italian pass to start a break that Bonneval would eventually finish.
The debutant was rewarded for supporting his fellow winger Yoann Huget, meaning another desperate, last-ditch tackle from the tireless Sarto on the latter went unrewarded.
Doussain converted all three before making way for Maxime Machenaud, one of a number of substitutions that broke up the flow of the game. Some made an impact, though not quite in the same way as centre Gael Fickou had done eight days earlier in the last-gasp win over England.
Lock Sebastien Vahaamahina was sin-binned for petulantly kicking the ball away and then spare props Slimani and Rizzo were both given their marching orders after a confrontation that had begun with the former butting his rival, to which the response from the Italian was to lay in with a couple of upper cuts.
With 14 against 13, the visitors - who next face Scotland in what seems certain to be a battle to avoid the wooden spoon - made the most of their numerical advantage to get Iannone in on the left. It was a try their efforts deserved, but their wait for success in Paris goes on a little longer.