France beat Italy in Six Nations opener
France 30 Italy 12
Saturday 04 February 2012
Tries from Aurelien Rougerie, Julien Malzieu, Vincent Clerc and Wesley Fofana enabled the beaten World Cup finalists to extend their winning run at the Stade de France to nine matches.
It means the tournament favourites remain unbeaten in home matches on the opening day of a Championship since 1975, although they did not have things all their own way early on today.
After plenty of early Italy possession, Dimitri Yachvili settled home nerves with a 12th-minute penalty.
However, the visitors levelled the scores with a Kristopher Burton drop goal five minutes later, after the same player had failed with an earlier sighter.
The first try of this season's Six Nations competition came in the 21st minute when Rougerie took advantage of gaps in the Italy defence to score his 23rd try for his country. Yachvili added the extras with a routine conversion and the visitors led 10-3.
Poor handling let Burton down when he had the opportunity to cross, before the same player reduced the deficit to four points in the 30th minute with a penalty, after Pascal Pape failed to roll away after a tackle.
The highlight of the first half came in the 35th minute when Louis Picamoles picked up at a scrum and found Malzieu on the outside - and the Clermont Auvergne wing held off several challenges in a powering run before crossing the line. Yachvili converted and it was 15-6.
Italy were given a chance to reduce the deficit early in the second half but Burton's penalty attempt, from just inside the France half, dropped short of the posts.
The same player did find the target in the 47th minute after Rougerie had been penalised, before Yachvili put a penalty wide after Italy were penalised for going off his feet at a tackle four minutes later.
Yachvili found the target with another penalty in the 52nd minute, making it 18-9 - and less than two minutes later Francois Trinh-Duc and Rougerie combined to help Clerc cross the line.
Yachvili kicked the straightforward conversion, enabling France to stretch their advantage to 25-9.
Italy's Tobias Botes kicked a testing penalty within five minutes of the debutant's introduction for Burton to make the score 25-12.
A glut of substitutions on both sides disrupted the flow of play in the second second half.
However, Fofana put the gloss on the win in the 72nd minute when he held off Luke McLean to mark his debut with a try. The conversion was put wide by Morgan Parra - but at 30-12 it did not prove costly.
Yachvili told BBC1 afterwards: "We are very happy to have beaten Italy because last year they beat us in Rome, so it's a bit of revenge.
"It's good to start the competition with a win. Many teams can win the tournament this year for sure.
"We are World Cup finalists and everyone is waiting for us, so it's going to be very hard."
Asked about their preparations under new coach Philippe Saint-Andre, Biarritz scrum-half Yachvili added: "We only had six days to prepare for this game but we have started to learn his new moves and his vision of the team.
"We are still learning but it's good."
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