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Italy shocks France with 22-21 Six Nations victory
Italy has scored a historic victory after beating France 22-21 on Saturday in the Six Nations rugby tournament. French coach Marc Lievremont said it was "another huge disappointment" after his team's loss to England last month.
AFP - Mirco Bergamasco kicked a penalty five minutes from time and then Italy held firm to stun France in a historic 22-21 victory at the Stadio Flaminio here on Saturday.
It was the hosts' first ever Six Nations win against the French, whose championship hopes are all but in tatters following a second successive defeat.
For Italy this stunning and dogged performance will have banished memories of their 59-13 capitulation to England at Twickenham earlier this season.
Bergamasco kicked five penalties and a conversion for a personal haul of 17 points with man-of-the-match Andrea Masi adding Italy's try.
For Italy coach Nick Mallett it was a victory he had been yearning for and perhaps will make the Italian rugby federation reflect about whether they should replace him after the World Cup by Frenchman Jacques Brunel.
"The team played really well against Ireland and had a good game against Wales when we had a bit of bad luck," said the 54-year-old former Springbok coach.
"This win against a good French team is a huge huge achievement, I am so proud of the players and proud of what they've done for the Italian supporters.
"Sport is a funny thing, you lose a few in a row and then things change very quickly - the fans realise we were improving all the time."
Masi was almost moved to tears.
"This has been a result of a lot of hard work and on the day a lot of courage," said the 29-year-old.
"Today we have beaten one of the strongest teams in the world."
France coach Marc Lievremont was seething.
"I haven't bothered talking to the players yet, I just spoke to Titi (captain Thierry Dusautoir)," said the 42-year-old, for whom little has gone right since guiding France to their first Grand Slam since 2004 last year.
"We have to congratulate the Italians because from the first minute to the last minute they were better than us.
"This is yet another disappoimtment and yet another huge disillusionment."
France made a shaky start, knocking on from the kick-off and giving away a free-kick at the subsequent scrum before Dusautoir was penalised for straying offside and Bergamasco kicked the hosts into a second minute lead.
However, it didn't take long for France's greater class, and mostly speed, to tell.
On the quarter hour mark Francois Trinh-Duc kicked ahead and although Masi blocked off Yoann Huget to allow Bergamasco to recover the ball deep in the Italian 22, when Masi went to kick clear he failed to find touch.
France spread it left and Vincent Clerc chipped over Gonzalo Canale, easily outstripping him in a foot-race to touch down, although Morgan Parra missed the extras.
Moments later Gonzalo Garcia stopped Clerc in the corner before Aurelien Rougerie burst through towards the posts, but as he stretched out his arm in the tackle to touch down, he dropped the ball.
Italy, though, were penalised at their own scrum and Parra kicked the penalty from right under the posts.
Canale made a great break on 24 minutes but lacked support, although France were penalised for offside and Bergamasco kicked another easy penalty, reducing the arrears to two points at the break.
Early in the second period, Italy wasted a great break from Masi with a poorly executed grubber from Luciano Orquera and they were made to pay when Parra kicked France 11-6 ahead.
Italy's resistance was seemingly broken on 51 minutes as a quick tap pass from Parra found Trinh-Duc, who stepped inside two men, burst through a gap and passed back inside for his scrum-half to go under the posts.
Italy weren't helping themselves as Bergamasco missed two kickable penalties from just outside the 22.
But that seemed to spur them on and suddenly, starting with a break from captain Sergio Parisse, Italy went through the phases out on the left with Fabio Semenzato popping the ball out to Masi to sneak over in the corner.
Bergamasco even kicked the conversion from the touchline and when he finally landed a penalty from 30 yards, the hosts trailed only 18-16.
Parra kicked a penalty but then two more from Bergamasco gave Italy an unlikely one-point lead with only five minutes to go.
The wait for victory to be confirmed was agonising as a scrum was reset twice after the 80 minutes were up but when the final whistle went, the Flaminio erupted into joyous scenes of celebration.