MARSEILLE, France (Reuters) - France overpowered Italy 34-17 on Friday to end an eight-game winless streak and claim their first victory in this year’s Six Nations.
Les Bleus, who had not won a game since beating Wales in the same competition last March, prevailed thanks to tries from Paul Gabrillagues, Hugo Bonneval and Mathieu Bastareaud.
Scrumhalf Maxime Machenaud added five penalties and a conversion while replacement Francois Trinh-Duc added another conversion.
Italy scored a first-half penalty try, while Tommaso Allan’s penalty and Matteo Minozzi’s late try, converted by Carlo Canna, gave the scoreline a touch of gloss for the visitors.
“It was a tough game for us but I think the performance was not too bad,” Italy number eight Sergio Parisse said.
“I think our defence was much better than the first two games. Just keep going, keep working. It’s difficult when you lose, but we have another two games to possibly get a win.”
France, who snatched their first win under new coach Jacques Brunel, have six points, three behind leaders Ireland and England who have played a game fewer. Italy remain pointless at the bottom of the table.
France next take on England on March 10, while Italy travel to Wales a day later.
The hosts were without several players who were dropped after going out late at night following France’s 32-26 defeat by Scotland, which had followed a 15-13 loss to Ireland in their opening game.
Against Italy their pack dominated early on and they were quickly rewarded with Gabrillagues’s try, before the visitors fought back and took the lead five minutes later with a pack-driven penalty try.
France, however, enjoyed the bulk of the possession and Machenaud’s first penalty on the half hour mark put them in front again. The scrumhalf then added another to give Les Bleus a four-point lead at halftime.
France, with an inspired Bastareaud at centre, were not clinical enough and continued to appear nervous.
Machenaud slotted another penalty but it was only after a handling error had cost France a try and the Azzurri stayed in the hunt thanks to Allan’s penalty 10 minutes into the second half.
France eventually scored again after another foray by Bastareaud, whose offload allowed Bonneval to touch down with Machenaud adding the extras to put the hosts 11 points ahead.
Machenaud kicked another two penalties to give France a virtually unassailable lead before Bastareaud powered through the Italy defence to score a deserved try.
Trinh-Duc converted before Minozzi touched down for Italy two minutes from fulltime at the end of a counter attack.
Writing by Julien Pretot; Editing by Toby Davis