x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

France pay the penalty for the Italian job in Six Nations

A late penalty helps Italy win 22-21 for what is only their second win since 1997.

Italy's Sergio Parisse jumps for the ball during their Six Nations match against France at Flaminio Stadium in Rome. Alessandro Bianchi / Reuters
Italy's Sergio Parisse jumps for the ball during their Six Nations match against France at Flaminio Stadium in Rome. Alessandro Bianchi / Reuters

ROME // Italy stunned France 22-21 in a major upset after a late penalty goal from Mirco Bergamasco for its first victory in the Six Nations this season.

Bergamasco contributed 17 points and fullback Andrea Masi scored Italy's only try at Stadio Flamino as the hosts beat the French in the Six Nations for the first time. It was only Italy's second win against France, the first coming in 1997.

"We played today against a good French team, who have reached two World Cup finals and have always thrashed Italy really, so it's a huge achievement," Italy coach Nick Mallett said. "I've got a great captain in Sergio Parisse - he's been a lone figure over the last four years, but he's now playing with a team where he just has to do his part. Today we had 15, 22 players all playing their parts."

Bergamasco had appeared to be suffering from nerves after earlier missing two more straightforward kicks, and Parisse later praised his composure.

"Mirco asked to kick again and he got the important penalty," Parisse said, before referring to Mallett. "He's the only coach who believed in us, I want to dedicate this victory to him."

Vincent Clerc and Morgan Parra scored tries for France, while Parra also kicked 11 points.

Trailing 8-6 at halftime after conceding a try to Clerc, Italy responded through a try for Masi in the 60th minute and Bergmasco kicked three more penalty goals for the Italians to send the crowd into raptures.

Italy will now travel to meet Scotland in the final round aiming to emulate its 2007 win at Edinburgh.

Bergamasco gave Italy an early 3-0 lead after France captain Thierry Dusautoir was offside at a ruck. The French responded by testing Masi under the high ball but the fullbook stood firm under the pressure.

Clerc scored the first try of the match in the 13th minute.

Masi failed to find touch from France flyhalf Francois Trinh-Duc's initial kick, allowing Dusautoir and Maxine Medard to link up to take the ball deep into Italy's half. The ball went to the left wing and Clerc chipped over Gonzalo Canale, winning the race to the ball to touch down.

Only a desperate tackle from Italy's Gonzalo Garcia stopped Clerc from scoring again soon after the restart, but a scrum penalty then allowed Parra to push France's lead out to 8-3.

Bergamasco kicked his second penalty in the 23rd for Italy to narrow the gap after another ruck infringement.

France maintained the pressure close to Italy's line in the second half, and Parra stretched the lead with another penalty. But the mistakes continued from the visitors' backs, with Yannick Jauzion knocking on.

When Italy conceded another scrummaging penalty. France kicked to touch and, after Julien Bonnaire took the lineout, the visitors pounded Italy's line. Eventually, Trinh-Duc burst through a gap to pop a pass for Parra to run in and score under the posts.

Bergamasco's mixed form with the boot continued when he missed a simple penalty from in front of the posts and dragged another one wide soon after.

Italy was rewarded for some pressure when Masi crossed the line. Alessandro Zanni drove at the heart of France's line and offloaded to winger Tommaso Benvenuti. The ball was flicked to Masi and he crashed through the tackle of Parra to touch down, with Bergamasco adding the conversion from near the touchline.

With its confidence boosted and the stadium roaring them on, Italy tore into France and Bergamasco's penalty brought the score to within three points.

France's nerves began to show and Trinh-Duc missed the target with a rushed drop goal attempt. But Parra atoned minutes later with his third penalty before Bergamasco landed his fourth with 10 minutes to go.

A clever kick by Italy's Kristopher Burton behind Huget caused France problems inside its own 22. The visitors conceded a penalty that Bergamasco kicked to put Italy in the lead for the first time in the match.

With one second remaining, France won a scrum midway in Italy's half. Imanol Harinordoquy broke from the back, but was swarmed on by Italy's defense before referee Bryce Lawrence blew for full-time.