France is top of the Six Nations table after a bonus-point win despite a lacklustre second half against Italy.
The hosts started strongly with tries from Teddy Thomas and Charles Ollivon before Italy’s Matteo Minozzi scored.
A Tommaso Allan penalty cut France’s lead to three, but Gregory Alldritt went over just before the break.
Romain Ntamack’s try sealed the bonus point before Italy’s Federico Zani scored and France’s Baptiste Serin finished off an individual effort.
Mattia Bellini added a consolation score for Italy, but France held on for a victory which sees them move to the top of the table on points difference from Ireland.
France has not won the Six Nations since 2010, but their resurgence under new coach Fabien Galthie began with a victory against England last weekend.
It looked as if it would be a more dominant win against Italy at the Stade de France as the hosts won a penalty in the third minute because of a high tackle and Ntamack claimed three points.
Shortly after, wing Thomas chased after Ntamack’s grubber kick and managed to get there before any Italian defenders, tapping the ball down for Les Bleus’ first try.
But French fly-half Ntamack missed the conversion and a subsequent penalty as Storm Ciara made her presence known with a swirling wind in Paris.
Scrum-half Antoine Dupont, so pivotal in the win against England, continued to stake an early claim on the Player of the Championship award as the 23-year-old broke through the Italian defence and captain Ollivon went over from close range.
The tide briefly turned as Thomas came too far out of the French defensive line, leaving plenty of space for Italy wing Minozzi to score in the left corner.
Allan landed the conversion from the touchline, then added a penalty to cut France’s lead to three.
But Italy prop Giosue Zilocchi was caught off his feet, gifting Les Bleus a penalty in front of the posts, and Ntamack took the chance to extend his side’s advantage.
After more Italian indiscipline, France opted to kick to the corner and it proved to be the correct decision, with Dupont sending a long pass left to Alldritt, who had plenty of room to score.
After a slower start to the second half, it was Italy who had the first chance to get off the mark but Allan’s penalty kick went wide.
Then Ntamack breathed new life into the game, taking Thomas’ pass and scything through defenders to score the bonus-point try for France.
With victory seemingly sealed, the hosts appeared to lose concentration and Italy took advantage of their lack of focus as Zani went over from close range.
Replacement scrum-half Serin showed another glimpse of what France is capable of as he took a quick penalty, side-stepped a tackle and gathered his own kick to score.
Les Bleus’ defence looked to have improved under new coach Shaun Edwards last weekend, but inconsistencies began to show against Italy, giving the Azzurri one last chance to score through Bellini before full-time.
France, who are equal with Ireland on points but top the table on points difference, play Wales in Cardiff on 22 February, while Italy host Scotland earlier the same day.
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Source – BBC