France struggle past Italy in their final Six Nations match
France struggled past Italy 25-14 to finish their disappointing Six Nations campaign with a second win, condemning the hosts to a 22nd straight defeat in the tournament.
Three tries from Antoine Dupont, Maxime Medard and Damian Penaud and ten points from youngster Romain Ntamack sealed victory in the Giuseppe Garibaldi Trophy between the two nations.
Tito Tebaldi replied with a try for Italy on 53 minutes with Tommaso Allan accounting for the remainder of the points for winless Italy.
"It's very, very hard because obviously it's incredible that we lost the match," said Italy coach Conor O'Shea.
The French have just one win against Scotland (27-10) after being thrashed by 44-8 England and losing 26-14 to Ireland last weekend.
Italy finish the tournament winless earning the fourth straight Wooden Spoon for a whitewash.
"Italy will regret this defeat tonight," said France coach Jacques Brunel.
"We suffered, but we managed to resist."
It was also disappointing final match at the Stadio Olimpico for Italy captain Sergio Parisse, the holder of a record 69 caps in the tournament.
Italy dominated possession in the first half but failed to convert it into a try with Parisse, Leonardo Ghiraldini, and debutant Marco Zanon wasting chances.
"I speechless because we dominated this match," said Parisse.
"We threw away so many chances. We were much, much superior to them in terms of intensity.
"We wanted this so much, but weren't able to win. when you lose chances you lose momentum."
A pair of Allan penalties had given Italy an early foothold in the game in the first 12 minutes.
But France pounced on an Italy kicking error after 15 minutes at the Stadio Olimpico.
Maxime Medard powered forward, passing for Penaud who outpaced Angelo Esposito, slipping a pass inside for Dupont to dot down under the posts.
Ntamack converted and then added a penalty goal as France opened up a four-point lead.
France captain Guilhem Guirado went off after 20 minutes clutching his ribs with Camille Chat coming on for the hooker who watched from the sidelines along with centre Wesley Fofana who pulled out with a muscle injury just before kick-off.
- Sad farewell for Ghiraldini -
Zanon came tantalisingly close to a try before the break on his first start as he chased down Allan's grubber.
The 21-year-old Treviso centre had a clear run at the line but the ball hit the cushion around the post and frustratingly slipped out of his hands.
Italy went into the dressing room 6-10 with Allan converting a penalty goal to close to one point shortly after the restart as Yacouba Camara knocked the ball out of Andrea Lovotti's hand.
But Huget broke through racing down to the left crossing over the line to touch down under the posts, with Ntamack converting.
Tebaldi replied by making a subtle break around a ruck, getting Italy's first try on 52 minutes for 14-17 but Allan missed the conversion after earlier failing with a penalty attempt.
Toulouse hooker Ghiraldini, 34, was stretchered off with a knee injury to thundering applause for his final home game after 104 caps.
Italy looked to have closed the gap when Zanon touched down but he knocked the ball on after a superb last-gap tackle from Penaud.
It was 22-year-old Penaud who sprinted through for his third try in 11 Tests to make sure of victory.
Ntamack missed the chance to convert, his only slip-up of the afternoon.
"I've rarely been through a Six Nations tournament like this, but at least we have ended on a winning note," said France's Mathieu Bastareaud.
"The atmosphere around the (Italian) team I'd never seen that in the past.
"The Italians had a lot of chances for tries but we held on and managed to win it."
Italy are still waiting for their first win in the tournament since February 2015 with more disappointment for the long-suffering fans in their 100th Six Nations match and 500th in their history.
? 2019 AFP