Relieved France beats Italy 25-14 in last 6N match
ROME (AP) — Italy's unwanted record in the Six Nations continued as a relieved France came away from the Stadio Olimpico with a 25-14 win in the teams' last match on Saturday.
France was ruthless when it carved out rare opportunities and tries from Antoine Dupont, Yoann Huget and Damian Penaud — two of which were converted by Romain Ntamack — handed it what was only its second win in this year's tournament.
"Our Six Nations has been a disappointment," France coach Jacques Brunel said. "We're disappointed by this tournament. We were too inconsistent, sometimes not good, really bad. We alternated between moments of lack of control and others of flashes of brilliance."
Penaud's try came after more sustained pressure from Italy with France having to see out the match with 14 men after hooker Camille Chat was shown a yellow card.
"In life, you don't always get what you deserve," Italy coach Conor O'Shea said.
Tito Tebaldi scored his first try for Italy but Tommaso Allan missed some crucial kicks. Marco Zanon missed a chance to score a try on his debut and had another ruled out on video review as Italy fell to its 22nd successive defeat in the Six Nations.
Italy captain Sergio Parisse and Leonardo Ghiraldini also missed chances to go over as the Azzurri failed to make the most of their opportunities.
"It's really incredible to think that we lost this match," O'Shea said. "Normally, it's easy to remember what were the things that went less well in a match, but this time, I remember more the times we had so many chances to go and score.
"I'm very disappointed with the result, for the players and for the fans. ... We wanted to win this match with all our hearts. The guys were really incredible."
Parisse and Ghiraldini, along with replacement Alessandro Zanni, were likely making their last international appearances on home soil after playing in more than 100 games. All three should be at the Rugby World Cup in Japan this year, but Ghiraldini's presence could now be a doubt after he injured a knee in the second half and was stretchered off to applause from players and supporters.
"Seeing Leonardo going off the pitch and on crutches at the end of the match was hard, but I am convinced he will do everything to be with this group in Japan and help us give our max," Parisse said.
A scrappy start from France gifted Italy a couple of early penalties that Allan converted to give Italy a 6-0 lead.
However, a dreadful error in defense led to the opening France try as Angelo Esposito missed a tackle on Penaud, who then offloaded for Dupont to run it over the line.
France captain Guilhem Guirado went off with a rib injury and was replaced by Chat at hooker and the visitors extended their lead with a Ntamack penalty.
Zanon almost got a try on his Italy debut but Allan's grubber kick hit the right post and bounced out of his grasp.
The Italy forwards were also twice held up over the line as the Azzurri dominated the last quarter of the half but couldn't reduce the deficit. They had a possible try reviewed but it wasn't given as there was no clear evidence the ball had crossed the line.
Allan added another penalty at the start of the second period but France immediately extended its advantage as Huget shrugged off his defender on the left flank and powered over for the score.
The score didn't reflect the performance of the two sides and Italy finally got its try in the 55th.
Parisse started the move and, after the ball was moved from left to right, Tibaldi made a dummy pass and crashed through a sliver of a gap from five meters for his first try in 32 appearances for Italy.
Allan, who had earlier missed a penalty, sent the conversion wide, and there was more bad news for Italy as Ghiraldini was carted off and forced to watch the rest of the match on the sidelines.
He was in tears as Italy missed a late chance to get its first Six Nations win since 2015 as, despite having the extra man, the only time it managed to turn over was ruled out as Zanon had the ball knocked from his grasp by Penaud.
Tebaldi had earlier missed a second try when he knocked on trying to ground the ball in a tackle.
To add insult to injury, Penaud then scored France's third and last try in the 79th minute from an offload by Ntamack.