Italy 24-29 France: Jalibert denies resurgent Azzurri famous win in Rome

By Sports Desk February 05, 2023

Matthieu Jalibert came to the rescue as France started the defence of their Six Nations title with a 29-24 bonus-point win over resurgent Italy in a thriller at Stadio Olimpico.

Les Bleus extending their winning run to 14 Tests, but the Azzurri came agonisingly close to producing a famous upset in Rome on Sunday.

Thibaud Flament, Thomas Ramos and Ethan Dumortier crossed in the first half for the holders, but they only led 19-14 at the break following an Ange Capuozzo try and three Tommaso Allan penalties.

A penalty try that also saw Charles Ollivon depart to the sin-bin left Italy only 22-21 down and Allen's penalty put them in front with just under 20 minutes to play.

Jalibert came off the bench to score the decisive try 14 minutes from time, though, with indisciplined France withstanding late pressure to cling on after Allen missed a penalty.

France were gifted an early lead by a Stephen Varney box kick that Flament charged down and coasted in for a simple finish, but Allan reduced the deficit to 7-3 with a penalty.

Ollivon had a try ruled out for a knock-on following another Italy error, but Ramos was on hand to dot down a loose ball after neither Capuozzo nor Damian Penaud were able to gather Romain Ntamack's cross-field kick.

Allen was on target with a second penalty before another pinpoint Ntamack kick to the left flank put a first Test score on a plate for Dumortier, Ramos adding the extras.

The Azzurri continued to pose a threat of their own and the livewire Capuozzo finished superbly in the left corner, with Allen missing the conversion but slotting over a penalty on the stroke of half-time.

Ramos made no mistake from the tee early in the second half, but Italy were only a point down when referee Matthew Carley awarded them a penalty try and showed Ollivon a yellow card for bringing down a driving maul after 52 minutes.

Allen sensationally booted Kieran Crowley's side in front just before Ollivon returned, only for Jalibert to crash over after taking a sublime offload from fellow replacement Romain Taofifenua to put France back into the lead.

Italy were not finished yet, but Allen was unable to send another kick between the posts and Les Bleus dug in under big pressure in the closing stages to avoid an upset.

Capuozzo sparkles again as Italy show they are on the up

Italy ended a seven-year wait for a Six Nations win by stunning Wales 22-21 in Cardiff last year and also beat Australia in November.

They were denied a stunning victory over Les Bleus, but showed they must be taken seriously and France-born full-back Capuozzo gave another demonstration of his class with a great finish in another eye-catching display.

Wake-up call for France in World Cup year

France did not do themselves any favours as they conceded 18 penalties, just about holding on to extend their long winning run.

This should serve us a wake-up call as they strive to follow up their Grand Slam triumph last year, with a Rugby World Cup starting on home soil starting in only seven months' time.

What's next?

France head to Dublin for a huge battle with Ireland next Saturday, with Italy travelling to Twickenham to face England on Sunday.

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