France beats Italy 30-12 in Six Nations
SAINT-DENIS, France (AP) -Six Nations title favorite France opened with a convincing 30-12 win over Italy at Stade de France on Saturday.
France scored four tries while keeping its own tryline spotless in its first match since losing the World Cup final to New Zealand last October. Italy played well and shaded France for long periods but simply lacked the playmakers the home side had.
Backs Aurelien Rougerie, Julien Malzieu, Vincent Clerc and Wesley Fofana, on debut, scored a try each, and scrumhalf Dimitri Yachvili booted 10 points.
"We relish this first victory in this competition,'' Rougerie told France 2 television, "because we know it's always tough to start the Six Nations.''
Kris Burton kicked nine points in his first start for Italy since last year's Six Nations, and Tobias Botes added a penalty, but there never looked like being a repeat of last year when France was stunned 22-21 in Rome.
Under clear skies and in a freezing minus-2 Celsius, France scored first when Yachvili slotted a penalty in the 11th minute after an Italian infringement in the ruck ended a counterattack led by left winger Malzieu.
Burton dropped a goal to level at 3-3 in the 18th.
France center Rougerie then found a big gap in the Italy defense and ran unchallenged to score the first try that Yachvili converted for 10-3 in the 22nd.
France hooker William Servat's failure to roll away in a tackle gave Burton a penalty in the 29th, but France took advantage again of some sloppy Italian defending in the 35th.
No. 8 Louis Picamoles charged off a scrum to feed Malzieu, who held off Edoardo Gori and new cap Giovanbattista Venditti, cut inside fullback Andrea Masi and beat tackles from Gori and Alberto Sgarbi to touch down.
Yachvili missed the conversion but France led 15-6 at halftime.
"They put a lot of intensity in their game and put us on the backfoot,'' Malzieu told France 2 television. "I think we were not strong enough in rucks because we lost quite a few balls.''
Italy winger Luke McLean made a break in the 45th but was stopped 10 meters from the tryline by Rougerie.
France center Fofana's failure to roll away helped Italy pull within six points with another penalty from Burton in the 46th.
Italy was penalized for an infringement in the ruck and Yachvili added three more points for an 18-9 lead.
France capitalized on a turnover in the 54th and flyhalf Francois Trinh-Duc chipped the ball over the Italy defense. Rougerie kicked the ball on and Clerc ranged up beside him to collect it and score France's third try, converted by Yachvili.
Five minutes later, Italy substitute Botes nailed a penalty following an offside by Yachvili. Then Italy ran into trouble in the 71st when lock Quintin Geldenhuys received a yellow card for illegally pulling down a maul.
France's forwards then surged to the posts, and quick passing to the left ended with Fofana running over McLean to score the last points.
France 30 (Aurelien Rougerie, Julien Malzieu, Vincent Clerc, Wesley Fofana tries; Dimitri Yachvili 2 penalties, 2 conversions), Italy 12 (Kris Burton 2 penalties, dropped goal, Tobias Botes penalty). HT: 15-6.
Roberto Luongo, Panthers get best of Cory Schneider, Devils
Ducks score six goals in the 2nd period to beat Avs in wild game