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Rugby: France beats Italy in Six Nations
France powered past Italy 40-18 in their Six Nations international at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome on Saturday.
Full back Brice Dulin ran in a late try to hand France their first bonus point and only second win in this year's Six Nations in a hard-fought 40-18 win over Italy on Saturday.
There was a distinct lack of French flair in the Italian capital, where Azzurri captain Sergio Parisse touched down after three minutes to spark celebrations a week after running England close in a controversial 36-15 loss at Twickenham.
But an error-strewn display, peppered by ill-discipline by the hosts handed the momentum to Guy Noves's visitors, who saw Gael Fickou, Virimi Vakatawa, Louis Picamoles and Dulin all touch over.
Fickou touched down on 21 minutes and after Vakatawa bundled over shortly after the restart, Italy saw a try disallowed following video referral before Picamoles ran through in the 67th minute to put the match beyond reach.
Dulin claimed a welcome bonus point three minutes from the final whistle, only for Angelo Esposito to touch down as defiant Italy desperately tried to reduce arrears.
It was France's first win since beating Scotland in Paris last month and Italy's fourth reverse in succession following defeats to Wales (33-7), Ireland (63-10) and England.
Italy had sparked controversy last week in England with 'no ruck' tactics that baffled their opponents and left rugby officials scrambling to review the rules.
But Conor O'Shea's men seemed intent on a more positive approach when, in the opening minutes, Parisse touched down after fly-half Carlo Canna's superb dummy drew two players to let his captain run through.
Canna missed the conversion from the left side of the 22. Although Camille Lopez hit the first of 20 points with the boot, a penalty on nine minutes, to reduce arrears Italy came close to a second try soon after only for a knock-on to force a scrum, won by France.
Italy had dominated the opening period but a series of impressive runs and offloads between wing Remi Lamerat and Vakatawa set Fickou free on the 22 metre line to touch down unchallenged on 21 minutes.
Lopez hit the conversion for a 13-8 lead and suddenly the pressure was on Italy.
A Canna penalty reduced arrears to 13-11 but France took their half-time advantage to 16-11 when Lopez hit a penalty following a high tackle.
Dario Chistolini replaced hooker Lorenzo Cittatini a minute after the restart, but the hosts were under the cosh from the opening seconds when Fickou's grubber kick towards the tryline sparked panic.
Minutes later, France won the penalty advantage and when scrum-half Baptiste Serin fed Lopez, he offloaded for Vakatawa to run in underneath the posts.
Lopez kicked the easy conversion for a 26-11 lead on 50 minutes and Italy were exposed further when Fickou broke through the middle to offload to Vakatawa, only for Edoardo Padovani to race back with a great tackle yards from the tryline.
Giorgio Bronzini replaced Padovani and minutes later looked to have relaunched the hosts after powering over the line with Picamoles and one other player on either arm.
But after video referral, New Zealand referee Ben O'Keeffe ruled no try.
It was a significant blow for the hosts, and as Italian heads dropped France stuck the knife in.
At a line-out deep in Italian territory, Kevin Gourdon offloaded for Dulin to run clear of the Italian defence to score.
A late Italian fightback saw Esposito touch down in the final minute, allowing Canna to make amends for his earlier miss, but it was too little, too late.