Six Nations 2002
Below-par France down Italy
February 2, 2002
Report Match details
Date/Time: Feb 2, 2002, 14:00 local, 13:00 GMT
Venue: Stade de France, Paris
France 33 - 12 Italy
Attendance: 65000  Half-time: 19 - 12
Tries: Betsen Tchoua, Traille
Cons: Merceron
Pens: Merceron 7
Pens: Dominguez 4
Flanker Serge Betsen scores France's second try to defeat Italy, France v Italy, Six Nations, Stade de France, February 2 2002.
Serge Betsen dives in to score
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Tournaments/Tours: Six Nations
Teams: France | Italy

France were far from their best but they recorded a 33-12 victory over Italy in their opening Six Nations Championship clash at Stade de France.

Tries in injury-time of both halves from centre Damien Traille and flanker Serge Betsen helped a jittery France claim maximum points against Italy.

After autumn successes against Australia and South Africa, the Paris public were expecting their team to cut loose, while Italy coach Brad Johnstone believed his side had got to grips with their discipline problems.

Ultimately, both were deceived.

Kiwi Johnstone could hardly have wished for a better first half-hour, however, as the unerring boot of talismanic fly-half Diego Dominguez fired the visitors into a 12-3 lead.

The Argentine-born number 10 bisected the posts with four out of four kicks, while his opposite number Gerald Merceron made a hash of his second effort.

And in an encounter where discipline was always going to be a key factor, French lock David Auradou was sin-binned for stamping after 22 minutes.

But the second-half collapse - that Italy have made their trademark since joining the Six Nations - started early, much to the relief of an increasingly restless French crowd.

After 35 minutes, Carlo Checcinato was yellow-carded for swinging a punch at Olivier Magne and, six minutes later, Traille made the decisive breakthrough.

A simple miss pass from Merceron created the glimmer of an opening 30 yards out and the 22-year-old Traille raced inbetween Italian centres Luca Martin and Cristian Stoica to score under the posts.

Merceron converted and still had time to add a penalty to send France in 19-12 up but, despite dwindling Italian numbers after the break, the floodgates remained firmly intact.

Lock Marco Bortolami began the steady trickle of yellow cards for the Italians when he was sin-binned for killing the ball within three minutes of the restart.

Flanker Matthew Phillips received a similar punishment for spoiling tactics after 55 minutes and Dominguez was unlucky to join him on the hour for tackling offside near the halfway line.

But even if their forays into French territory became rarer, Italy can at least take heart from their rearguard action which, combined with some woeful French handling, restricted the hosts to penalties.

Winger Aurelien Rougerie and number eight Steven Hall were both held up over the line by some fine last-ditch cover tackling by the Italians as Merceron's kicks edged France out to a 28-12 lead.

But the constant French pressure finally took its toll, as in the first period, to ensure the demanding home crowd were at least sent home in good spirits.

A series of drives up the middle sucked in the Italian defence before the ball was worked wide for Betsen to go over on the left for a good end to a decidedly mediocre French performance.

France: Jean-Jean, Rougerie, Marsh, Traille, Bory, Merceron, Michalak, Crenca, Bru, De Villiers, Auradou, Privat, Betsen, Magne, Hall.

Replacements: Garbajosa for Jean-Jean (53), Albouy for Michalak (80), Pelous for Bru (59), Ibanez for Auradou (59).

Not Used: Poux, Vermeulen, Gelez.

Sin Bin: Auradou (23).

Tries: Traille, Betsen.

Cons: Merceron.

Pens: Merceron 7.

Italy: Vaccari, Pedrazzi, Martin, Stoica, Dallan, Dominguez, Troncon, Lo Cicero, Lo Cicero, Moscardi, Muraro, Checchinato, Dellape, Bortolami, M. Bergamasco, Phillips, De Carli, M. Bergamasco.

Replacements: M. Bergamasco for Vaccari (72), M. Bergamasco for Pedrazzi (47), De Carli for Lo Cicero (28), Moreno for Lo Cicero (57), De Carli for Muraro (57), Giacheri for Dellape (79), Persico for M. Bergamasco (80), Lo Cicero for De Carli (31), Pedrazzi for M. Bergamasco (50).

Not Used: Queirolo, Pez.

Sin Bin: Checchinato (35), Bortolami (44), Phillips (55), Dominguez (62).

Pens: Dominguez 4.

Att: 60,000

Ref: Alan Lewis (Ireland).


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