Australia came close to real embarrassment in Florence when they appeared to slip into coasting mode and ended up in a fight to cling on to a 22-19 victory over Italy.
It was an easy mistake to make. When Nick Cummins crossed for a try they were 22-3 ahead with barely half an hour gone. Game over? Think again. Luciano Orquera reduced the arrears with his second penalty and Robert Barbieri dived in for a converted try just after the restart. When Orquera added two more penalties there was only three points between the teams and Australia were looking ragged.
But the Italian bubble burst. Mirco Bergamasco was carried off and Sergio Parisse fumbled with the try-line beckoning.
France needed four penalties from Frédéric Michalak to secure a 22-14 victory over Samoa at the Stade de France, where the visitors scored tries at the start of each half.
Census Johnstone surprised the French with a clever grubber kick after only five minutes, allowing David Lemi to touch down. Tusi Pisi converted. Early in the second half Joe Tekori barged over for a try from close quarters, but in the end Samoan indiscipline made the difference.
Another fine Aviva Premiership display at fly-half from Gloucester's Freddie Burns had his head coach, Nigel Davies, suggesting an England call-up was due after he put Danny Cipriani in the shade in the 29-3 home defeat of Sale. "What we have seen here with him is a maturity which probably wasn't there in the past – but his game management today was excellent," Davies said. Sale's only points came from the former England fly-half Cipriani.
Northampton ended a run of three league defeats with a 23-16 victory over London Welsh at Franklin's Gardens, in a gruelling battle of the packs.