But whilst the reigning Grand Slam Champions walked away with their 14th consecutive Test Match win, respect must go to previous Wooden Spoon holders-Italy.
Having succumbed to a considerable loss of 37-10 against Les Bleus in last year’s Six Nations , there was an unspoken feeling amongst fans- that Italy was to fall short of France by some considerable margin.
At least, that was our prediction…
Having lost to France 9 times since their last win against France in 2013, the first half of the match evoked a familiar feeling of de ja vu of past tournaments as Les Bleus‘ dominated the Azzurri side.
Second Row Forward Thibaud Flament was the first to score, snatching the ball off the unsuspecting Scrum Half, Italy’s Stephen Varney in the 4th minute (a penalty Ramos soon converted to leave France 7-0 up).
Italy hit back in the 13′ with Fly Half Tommaso Allan securing a penalty following Uini Antoni‘s failed release of the ball in what can be considered a jackler attempt that put the Azzurri on the board, bringing the scores to 7-3.
Les Bleus followed up with Full Back Thomas Ramos‘s try in the 18’, but it wasn’t long before Allan contributed to providing a second penalty for Italy at 23 minutes as France was caught offside.
Things were looking up for the Azzurri, despite having only scored penalties against their rivals, it was clear Les Bleus weren’t at their best, with disputes of discipline circulating the stands.
However, it wasn’t long before Les Bleus were back on form. None other than debut Winger Ethan Dumortier touched down a further try in the 27′ thanks to an astonishing kick-pass from Roman Ntamack following on from Gregory Alldritt‘s possession of the ball at the 22-metre line.
Just look at Ntamack‘s casual response to his phenomenal set-up for Demortier.
France were dominating the field, but nobody quite anticipated what would happen next…
It was Italy‘s prodigy Ange Capuozzo who raced past the opposition in the ’31 to acquire an electrifying try to bring the team up 11-19 ( a score set to increase again within minutes).
Just look at the footwork from Capuozzo here!
Now brimming with determination, Italy’s Fly Half, Tomaso Allan made a third effort to obtain points for the team and left Italy tightening the gap, with just 5 points being all that stood between a win over Les Bleus.
France were in their sights, and as the second half commenced, Italy were proving to be the underdog…
A welcomed penalty in the second half had rival France quaking in their boots as Flanker Charles Ollivon received a yellow card in the ’52 for collapsing on the ball during a maul that formed from Italy’s attempt to drive the ball over the line.
A single point was all that stood between them and the Rome visitors.
With the teams showcasing equal determination in wishing to emerge as victors of their first round, Italy’s Tommaso Allan‘s penalty became the biggest concern for Les Blues.
It was here Italy were ahead of their unsuspecting rivals with just 18 minutes left on the clock- A nail-biting turnaround against the former Six Nations Champions.
But having showcased vast improvement in their playmaking in having beaten Australia and Wales last year- Italy were ready to give it their all.
In what was now a deadlocked game of back and forth in a desperate attempt to retain their reputation, France’s replacement Matthieu Jailbert stepped up to the mark to redeem Les Bleus and edge them closer towards winning just 5 minutes later.
A dazzling display of athleticism and tact from the French Fly Half!
With just 13 minutes remaining, Italy continued to fight back, placing an overwhelming amount of pressure on Les Bleus, but despite valiant efforts from the Azzurri, it was clear France weren’t ready to lose their winning streak just yet.
Time was called, and France was declared victorious.
Reflecting on the Game
Commenting on the game, French Winger, Ethan Dumortier stated:
“It’s not the Italy we knew in the Five Nations, or earlier in the Six Nations”
We couldn’t agree more! Italy are an entirely new breed as far as we’re concerned and it’s safe to say that if last year’s Wooden Spoon holders are able to put former Six Nations champs under as much pressure as they have, then we’re in for a treat.
Captain Antoine Dupont reflected on France’s playing:
“There were some positives today because we won and also got the bonus point, but the performance was not good. Our behaviour was sanctioned, we got a yellow card and made fouls when we were not in danger.”
Having conceded a total of 18 penalties, 7 alone during ruck-time, Les Bleus allowed Italy to dominate their territory repeatedly.
Now set to play England next in Round 2, could Italy again be set to shake up the score? Whilst their 0-33 defeat of last year leaves little to suggest they will emerge victorious, could a repeated determination shown in their playmaking against France be a premonition for change? It’s looking likely!
What are your predictions on the outcome of the Six Nations? Were you impressed by Italy? Let us know in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!