In a pulsating affair, a Marco Zanon knock-on proved to be the difference.
Marco Zanon Error Costs Italy Victory
In an end-to-end contest, an Italian knock-on and brilliant tackle by Damian Penaud cost the Italians victory in the first match of Six Nations Super Saturday.
With time winding down and the Italians six points behind, centre Marco Zanon had all but scored to narrow the gap to one with a conversion to come. However Damian Penaud put in a colossal tackle on the try-line to cause Zanon to knock-on. It would prove to be a huge mistake that would ultimately cost them victory.
Everything was to play for in the first match of Super Saturday. Italy were looking to get their first win on the board by playing some fantastic off-loading and exciting rugby. Exploiting French anxiety was the name of the game.
This was exactly what happened early on. French hands looked nervous and edgy spilling the ball on several occasions gifting the Italians possession. You would think an attacking, broken-down match would be playing into French hands but that simply wasn’t the case in the opening exchanges.
Tomasso Allan opened the scoring for the Italians knocking over a penalty after a few minutes and another followed in the 10th minute after the Italan pack utterly destroyed the French scrum.
Indeed the bounce of the ball was going Italy’s way but as always it was only a matter of time before the Italians gifted the opposition some points.
After the quarter of the hour mark Maxime Medard freed his hands to off-load to Damian Penaud who got passed Tito Tebaldi too easily and then passed to Antoine Dupont to score a try. Roman Ntamack duly converted and it felt like the Italians had the stuffing knocked out of them.
More points followed a few minutes later from the boot of Ntamack before the Italians were denied a try first by the post and then twice on the line. The second incident went to the TMO Graham Hughes who was pretty much the only person in the stadium who didn’t think it was a try, aside from referee Matthew Carley obviously.
Eventually the pulsating first half concluded with more Italian pressure but they failed to make it count and the score was 10-6 in favour of the French.
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The second half started it in similar fashion to the first, with Tomasso Allan kicking a penalty and France scoring a try, this time through Yoann Huget who dotted down to push the score to 17-9 after Ntamack again converted.
The Italians responded well with wave after wave of pressure into French territory which eventually resulted in a fantastic try for Italian scrum-half Tito Tebaldi who has been a revelation in this years tournament. Allan was unable to add the extras so three points was the difference with 25 minutes to go.
Then, with 17 minutes to go we saw one of the rarest sights in modern international rugby, a drop-goal. Well taken by Ntamack, this pushed the score to six before Tebaldi came agonisingly close to scoring another try but was adjudged to have knocked on, an all too common sight for the men in white.
The pivotal knock-on by Marco Zanon then occurred in the final ten minutes which killed any momentum they had. As a result the French then put the game to bed with a brilliant try by Damian Penaud. Once again, it was a script that was all too familiar for the Italians – so close yet so far.
In a match that was there for the taking, the wait for a win goes on.
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