France U20 see off Italy in a thriller

France U20 see off Italy in a thriller

France Under-20s clinched second spot in the Six Nations table as they recorded a 35-31 bonus-point victory over Italy in Biella.

Les Bleuets could not catch Ireland, crowned champions a week ago, but knew that a four-try win would be enough to secure second place.

And despite a tricky first half, they ran in five tries in total in a thrilling encounter, with Italy also earning two bonus points.

Italy made the perfect start with a try after just five minutes from full-back Jacopo Trulla. It came after Les Bleuets had tried to run the ball out of their own 22, knocking it on. From a scrum ten metres out, the Italians opened up some space for Trulla to race through around the trailing Mathieu Smaïli.

France responded with a break by Cheikh Tiberghien, and their first real attack saw them hammer away at the Italian line to no avail.

They first try did finally come just before the half-hour, and it was a beauty. Tiberghien was again at the heart of it, slicing through the midfield from full-back before feeding Vincent Pinto. The winger then drew his man to put Kevin Viallard away. Smaïli added the simple conversion to give France the lead 7-5.

Just before the break they got a second, Maxence Lemardelet taking advantage of some fragile defence around the fringes to burst over. Smaïli again converted to make it 14-5 at the break.

Italy had enjoyed plenty of possession in the first half, but were not able to make it count in what was a more even half than the scoreline indicated.

France burst out of the blocks in the second half, with two tries in three minutes to secure the bonus point.

The first came after great build-up play between Mathieu Hirigoyen and Tiberghien with Pinto the beneficiary.

Immediately afterwards Rayne Barka picked and went and, on a searing line, Ethan Dumortier raced through. Smaïli converted both to make it 28-5.

That score was harsh on Italy, who responded with a pair of tries from hooker Andrej Marinello. The first came from a rolling maul, bursting through the heart of the French defence.

The second was a clever play off a lineout as the Italians shaped to set up the maul before flicking the ball out for the hooker to burst through. Paolo Garbisi converted to make it 28-17.

France were starting to wobble, but hit back well with a fine try from Yoram Moefana, again made by a Tiberghien break. Smaïli converted his fifth try of the game.

Still, it was Italy who finished the stronger, as Michael Mba scored twice, including with the final play of the game. That came after some extended pressure, but it was the first of his efforts, on 71 minutes, that really caught the eye.

With Giacomo da Re pulling the strings including an audacious offload out of the back of the hand, the winger crossed down the left for a magical score.


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