Yoann Maestri and Mathieu Bastareaud ran in the only tries of the game as France whitewashed Italy 29-0 at the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday in what could go down as one of the worst Six Nations matches in the history of the competition.
France traveled to the Italian capital looking to reclaim the Giuseppe Garibaldi Trophy having lost to the Azzurri on their two previous visits to Rome.
Under-fire France coach Philippe Saint-Andre ultimately achieved his objective of seeing his side get back to winning ways following successive defeats in this campaign to Ireland and Wales.
However, despite the one-sided scoreline, the display from both sides — who will meet in Pool D of the World Cup in England later this year — was far from world class.
For once in this tournament, the Stadio Olimpico was deadly silent for long spells as Italy, seemingly filled with confidence after a 22-19 win over Scotland two weeks ago, failed to deliver on the promise shown at Murrayfield.
Italy coach Jacques Brunel tried to play down his side’s sorry performance, saying: “We missed early chances to put points on the board and over the game we lacked efficiency in the lineouts and the mauls.
“The rain wasn’t a problem. The French defense was, although we knew that already. They had only conceded two tries during the tournament ... and they built their victory on those foundations. That put us in difficulty, especially in the second half,” Brunel said.
France, who will face England in their final match of the tournament, hardly fared better.
However, Saint-Andre was keen to see things in a positive light.
“We have to congratulate the players’ efforts throughout the week. They took the match by the scruff of the neck in what were somewhat trying circumstances,” Saint-Andre said.
France went into the half-time interval with a nine-point lead thanks to penalties from flyhalf Camille Lopez (two) and fullback Scott Spedding.
There was little in the way of running, flowing rugby in the opening half.
Noa Nakaitaci ran 40m with the ball before being hauled down by Italy captain Sergio Parisse, who will likely want to consign the game in which he took his caps tally to a record 112 to the dustbin.
At the end of the half, Lopez, then Spedding burst through with mazy runs past the Italian 22m line before being stopped in their tracks.
To their credit, France tried to make amends after the interval.
A Sergio Parisse foul handed Les Bleus another penalty on 41 minutes, with Jules Plisson’s effort worming its way through the posts to give France a 12-point lead.
Spedding’s arcing run through the Italian defense was a shining nugget in the mire. Although he was stopped before the line. From the breakdown, wing Yoann Huget set up Maestri for a simple run in from 10m after 45 minutes.
Plisson added the conversion for a 19-point lead and the replacement flyhalf made it three from three attempts with another penalty just before the hour.
The game was effectively over, but France were intent on wrapping a silver lining around their performance.
The visitors won a penalty in the final minute after Italy nicked the ball illegally. France went for the tap and Bastareaud took possession close to the line to barge his way over for his third try in 34 matches.
Plisson added the conversion to finish with 10 points from the boot.
As they celebrated Naomi Osaka’s victory in the final of the US Open in New York City’s Flushing Meadows on Saturday, Tokyoites were eager to embrace their heroines’ stand against racial injustice. Osaka, who won her third Grand Slam title with a victory over Victoria Azarenka, has used her platform to support the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, wearing a mask bearing the name of a different African American before each of her seven matches in the championship. She had donned masks bearing the names of Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, George Floyd and Philando Castile. On Saturday, she walked
KEY GOAL: Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei is now free to focus on taking her fourth doubles title of the year with Barbora Strycova; they are due to face Nao Hibino and Makoto Ninomiya Taiwanese No. 1 Hsieh Su-wei on Monday returned to the court for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the WTA Tour, falling to a 6-3, 6-1 defeat to US Open quarter-finalist Elise Mertens, who made a solid transition from the hard courts in New York to the clay at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. “I’m not sure how well I adapted, to be honest,” Mertens told the WTA Web site. “I just feel like I might still be struggling a little. It was also [Hsieh’s] first match of the week, so that was a bit of an
THOROUGH THRASHING: Hualien City beat Taichung Blue Whale 2-1, ending their three-year winning streak with one round of matches left and eight points to spare Hualien City on Saturday clinched this year’s Taiwan Mulan Football League title with one game to spare, by beating Taichung Blue Whale 2-1 at Fu Jen Catholic University in New Taipei City. Hualien City have scored 38 points this season. Blue Whale are second on the scoreboard with 30 points, while Taipei Bravo are third with 23 points. One final round of matches is to be played on Saturday. It is the fourth league trophy for Hualien City, and ends Blue Whale’s three-year winning streak. Hualien had won the title from 2014 to 2016. Both teams defended well, leaving few chances in front
‘FUN TIME’: Denver’s Nikola Jokic said that his team would not accept that anyone else is better than them and the opposition need to play much better than they do Just about everyone had LA versus LA written in for the NBA’s Western Conference finals, but the resilient Denver Nuggets have crashed the party. Behind Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets advanced to the conference finals for the first time since 2009 to face LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers. Game 1 is scheduled to be played tomorrow. This was no ordinary road. The Nuggets fell behind 3-1 in their first-round series against the Utah Jazz before bouncing back with three straight victories. Then they went down 3-1 to the Los Angeles Clippers in the second round before winning in Game 7