Italy come close to an upset in France but have to settle for a draw

By Sports Desk February 25, 2024

Italy were within the width of a post of the biggest upset in Six Nations history as they drew 13-13 against 14-man France in Lille.

Paolo Garbisi had a last-gasp penalty attempt from 38 metres to register Italy’s first-ever Championship win in France.

But the ball toppled off its tee and, with just a few seconds left on the shot clock after it had been replaced, Garbisi rushed his kick and struck the right-hand post.

France – who had won 45 of their previous 48 Test matches against Italy, including the past 14 in a row – had lost Jonathan Danty to a red card on the stroke of half-time for a high shot on opposite centre Ignacio Brex.

Les Bleus thrashed Italy 60-7 at last year’s World Cup but a repeat of that one-sided encounter did not materialise as the Azzurri underlined their improvement under new head coach Gonzalo Quesada.

Italy remain bottom of the Guinness Six Nations, level on points with Wales, while France stay in fourth place, with their title dream over.

France started at breakneck pace and were rewarded with a seventh-minute try.

Italy were unable to stop a series of pick-and-go’s through the middle of their defence and skipper Charles Ollivon got the ball down under a pile of Azzurri bodies.

Thomas Ramos dispatched a simple conversion and swiftly added a penalty as France suggested the game could be effectively over by half-time.

Italy spent most of the first half hanging on by their fingernails, and were not helped by a risky strategy of trying to escape their 22 with ball in hand.

Fly-half Matthieu Jalibert was stopped near to the line and 19-year-old lock Posolo Tuilagi almost celebrated his first Test start with a try.

But Tuilagi was held up over the line and the contest took a dramatic turn in the final play of the first half as Italy launched a rare attack.

There was clear head-on-head contact between Danty and Brex, and English referee Christophe Ridley reduced France to 14 men with a yellow card.

Martin Page-Relo provided further punishment to France from long range, and Ridley confirmed after the interval that the bunker review system had upgraded Danty’s yellow to red.

France made light of their numerical disadvantage as their forwards rallied for Ramos to land his second penalty.

Tommaso Menoncello went close to an Azzurri try, kicking ahead before running out of ground, but Garbisi cut the gap to seven points again with a straightforward penalty.

Italy drew level 10 minutes from time after building through the phases for Leonardo Marin to find Ange Capuozzo with a superb offload.

Garbisi converted but then failed to top it as Italy, with only two Six Nations wins over France since joining the Championship in 2000, fell agonisingly short of a second success in 45 matches.

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