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Assured Azzurri stun off-key French

Date

Justin Davis

ITALY 23 FRANCE 18

Big unit ... Italy's prop Martin Castrogiovanni goes to ground.

Big unit ... Italy's prop Martin Castrogiovanni goes to ground. Photo: AP

ROME: Fly-half Luciano Orquera kicked 10 points and Kris Burton dropped a match-winning goal as Italy belied their status as Six Nations also-rans to stun tournament co-favourites France 23-18 at the Olympic Stadium here on Sunday.

France came into their opener buoyed by three morale-boosting wins over Australia, Argentina and Samoa in November, but under pressure to make a solid start, having finished a mediocre fourth in last year's edition.

Adding to coach Philippe Saint-Andre's task was knowing that on their last outing in Italy, in March 2011, they suffered a 22-21 defeat.

France's centre Maxime Mermoz passes the ball in front of Italy's fly-half Luciano Orquera.

France's centre Maxime Mermoz passes the ball in front of Italy's fly-half Luciano Orquera. Photo: AFP

With Italy showing progress in their own November test campaign, notably against New Zealand and Australia, France came to the capital ready for a physical encounter.

Instead, the hosts eschewed the errors for which they have become known and added their own brand of expansive, flowing rugby to frustrate France throughout a thrilling encounter.

"You have to says hat's off to Italy," said Saint-Andre. "They're 10th in the (world) rankings, they're improving all the time and today they simply deserved to win.

The pain of defeat ... France's fly-half Frederic Michalak after fulltime.

The pain of defeat ... France's fly-half Frederic Michalak after fulltime. Photo: AFP

"We were lacking in terms of precision, we gave the ball away too often and didn't use the opportunities we created to pull ahead when we could have."

Italy coach Jacques Brunel was made to sweat for the remainder after Burton, a 64th minute replacement for Orquera, gave Italy a 23-18 lead in the 68th minute.

But the Azzurri, showing discipline in defence as France threatened in the final 10 minutes, held them off to secure a second consecutive Six Nations win almost a year after beating Scotland.

Italy's winger Giovanbattista Venditti celebrates with hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini. Click for more photos

Italy shock France in Rome

When in Rome ... Italy stun tournament favourites France with second-half revival. Photo: AFP

With the Scots up next for Italy at Murrayfield, Brunel said it will soon be time to keep the emotions in check.

"The team has made a lot of progress in recent years and today we gave a good image of our rugby, and showed we can play with character," he said.

"We've worked a lot on our team and a lot on our game and I liked a lot of what I seen today.

Italy's centre Tommaso Benvenuti is tackled by France's fly-half Frederic Michalak and lock Yoann Maestri.

Italy's centre Tommaso Benvenuti is tackled by France's fly-half Frederic Michalak and lock Yoann Maestri. Photo: AFP

"But now we have to look forward. Everyone says Scotland are not a great team at the moment but they are a hard team to play against, especially at Murrayfield, and last year they gave a lot of teams problems."

Orquera set up Italy's opening try when he darted through the French defence to off-load to skipper Sergio Parisse who touched down on five minutes, and converted to put Italy 7-0 up inside seven minutes.

France replied with a scrambled Louis Picamoles try on 11 minutes, however the first of several errors that would prove costly for France came when Michalak missed the conversion.

Orquera, first with a drop goal then a penalty for offside, took Italy's lead to 13-5 inside the 19th minute.

France began to find their stride although full-back Andrea Masi did well to stop Benjamin Fall in his tracks with a fine tackle on the left byline.

Michalak reduced arrears to 13-8 with a penalty on the half hour and five minutes later France pulled level in emphatic style when Fall touched down as the Italian defence struggled to contain the power and movement of full back Yoann Huget and Wesley Fofana on the right wing.

Michalak converted to give France the lead but the visitors spurned the chance to add another five points when Fofana's off-load to the unmarked Fulgence Ouedraogo on the right went into touch.

Italy fell further behind to a superb Michalak penalty from 40 metres out shortly after the restart, although an even longer attempt from the fly-half slipped under the posts minutes later.

France also lost out when Maxime Machenaud's promising run to the tryline was kept in check.

Minutes later Italy prop Martin Castrogiovanni touched down for Italy from Orquera's superb ground pass. The conversion gave Italy a 20-18 lead and minutes later the stadium erupted when Burton sent the decisive drop goal through the posts from 25 metres.

ITALY 23 (Sergio Parisse, Martin Castrogiovanni tries; Luciano Orquera 2 con, pen: Kris Burton, Orquera drop goals) def FRANCE 18 (Louis Picamoles, Benjamin Fall tries; Frederic Michalak con, 2 pens)
Referee: Nigel Owens (WAL)

AFP

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BRU 0vs HUR 0 19:40GIO Stadium
Sat, 27 FebTimes shown AEDT
CHT 0vs Jagu 0 04:00FSS
Sunw 0vs LIO 0 15:15Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium
CRU 0vs CHF 0 17:35AMI
WAR 0vs RED 0 19:40AS
FOR 0vs REB 0 21:50nib Stadium
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King 0vs SHA 0 00:00NMBS
STO 0vs BUL 0 02:05DHL Newlands
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CRU 0vs BLU 0 17:35AMI
BRU 0vs WAR 0 19:40GIO Stadium
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CHF 0vs LIO 0 15:15FMG Stadium Waikato
HIG 0vs HUR 0 17:35FBS
RED 0vs FOR 0 19:40SS
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CHT 0vs STO 0 02:05FSS
SHA 0vs Jagu 0 04:10GpKP
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FOR 0vs BRU 0 22:05nib Stadium
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REB 0vs RED 0 19:40AAMI
Sunw 0vs CHT 0 21:50Singapore National Stadium
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King 0vs CHF 0 00:00NMBS
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CHF 0vs FOR 0 17:35FMG Stadium Waikato
REB 0vs HIG 0 19:40AAMI
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SHA 0vs CRU 0 02:05GpKP
Jagu 0vs STO 0 09:00Estadio Jose Amalfitani
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Fri, 01 AprTimes shown AEDT
HIG 0vs FOR 0 17:35FBS
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FOR 0vs CRU 0 21:00nib Stadium
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RED 0vs HIG 0 19:40SS
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SHA 0vs LIO 0 01:05GpKP
King 0vs BUL 0 03:10NMBS
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CRU 0vs Jagu 0 17:35AMI
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CHT 0vs Sunw 0 03:00FSS
BLU 0vs SHA 0 17:35EP
WAR 0vs BRU 0 19:40AS
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BUL 0vs RED 0 01:05Loftu
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HIG 0vs SHA 0 17:35FBS
REB 0vs CHT 0 19:40AAMI
Sat, 23 AprTimes shown AEST
Sunw 0vs Jagu 0 15:15Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium
HUR 0vs CHF 0 17:35WS
FOR 0vs WAR 0 19:40nib Stadium
STO 0vs RED 0 23:00DHL Newlands
Sun, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
King 0vs LIO 0 01:05NMBS
BRU 0vs CRU 0 16:05GIO Stadium
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BLU 0vs REB 0 17:35EP
RED 0vs CHT 0 19:40SS
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LIO 0vs HUR 0 01:05Emirates Airlines Park
STO 0vs WAR 0 03:10DHL Newlands
Jagu 0vs King 0 07:00Estadio Jose Amalfitani
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Fri, 06 MayTimes shown AEST
CRU 0vs RED 0 17:35AMI
BRU 0vs BUL 0 19:40GIO Stadium
Sat, 07 MayTimes shown AEST
Sunw 0vs FOR 0 15:15Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium
CHF 0vs HIG 0 17:35FMG Stadium Waikato
WAR 0vs CHT 0 19:40AS
SHA 0vs HUR 0 23:00GpKP
Sun, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
King 0vs BLU 0 01:05NMBS
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Fri, 13 MayTimes shown AEST
HIG 0vs CRU 0 17:35FBS
REB 0vs BRU 0 19:40AAMI
Sat, 14 MayTimes shown AEST
HUR 0vs RED 0 17:35WS
WAR 0vs BUL 0 19:40AS
Sunw 0vs STO 0 21:45Singapore National Stadium
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CHT 0vs King 0 01:05FSS
LIO 0vs BLU 0 03:10Emirates Airlines Park
Jagu 0vs SHA 0 07:00Estadio Jose Amalfitani
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Fri, 20 MayTimes shown AEST
CRU 0vs WAR 0 17:35AMI
Sat, 21 MayTimes shown AEST
RED 0vs Sunw 0 15:05SS
CHF 0vs REB 0 17:35FMG Stadium Waikato
FOR 0vs BLU 0 19:40nib Stadium
LIO 0vs Jagu 0 23:00Emirates Airlines Park
Sun, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
SHA 0vs King 0 01:05GpKP
BUL 0vs STO 0 03:10Loftu
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Fri, 27 MayTimes shown AEST
HUR 0vs HIG 0 17:35WS
WAR 0vs CHF 0 19:40AS
Sat, 28 MayTimes shown AEST
King 0vs Jagu 0 03:00NMBS
BLU 0vs CRU 0 17:35EP
BRU 0vs Sunw 0 19:40GIO Stadium
STO 0vs CHT 0 23:00DHL Newlands
Sun, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
BUL 0vs LIO 0 01:05Loftu
REB 0vs FOR 0 16:05AAMI
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Fri, 01 JulTimes shown AEST
CHF 0vs CRU 0 17:35ANZ National Stadium, Suva
BRU 0vs RED 0 19:40GIO Stadium
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HUR 0vs BLU 0 17:35WS
REB 0vs STO 0 19:40AAMI
CHT 0vs FOR 0 23:00FSS
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King 0vs HIG 0 03:10NMBS
Jagu 0vs BUL 0 07:00Estadio Jose Amalfitani
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BLU 0vs BRU 0 17:35EP
RED 0vs CHF 0 19:40SS
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CRU 0vs REB 0 17:35AMI
WAR 0vs HUR 0 19:40AS
FOR 0vs STO 0 21:45nib Stadium
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BUL 0vs Sunw 0 01:05Loftu
SHA 0vs CHT 0 03:10GpKP
Jagu 0vs HIG 0 07:00Estadio Jose Amalfitani
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BLU 0vs WAR 0 17:35EP
RED 0vs REB 0 19:40SS
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SHA 0vs Sunw 0 03:00GpKP
CRU 0vs HUR 0 15:15AMI
HIG 0vs CHF 0 17:35FBS
BRU 0vs FOR 0 19:40GIO Stadium
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STO 0vs King 0 01:05DHL Newlands
CHT 0vs BUL 0 03:10FSS
Jagu 0vs LIO 0 07:00Estadio Jose Amalfitani
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