Jalibert's magic helps sweep France past Italy into World Cup quarter-finals

Jalibert's magic helps sweep France past Italy into World Cup quarter-finals
France's Thomas Ramos scores their third try
France's Thomas Ramos scores their third try
France's Matthieu Jalibert (24) produced the magic as the hosts punched their ticket for the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals by crushing Italy 60-7 on Friday despite the absence of talisman Antoine Dupont (26).

Fly-half Jalibert's lightning-quick passing and inspired try lifted Les Bleus top of Pool A with other tries by Damian Penaud (2), Louis Bielle-Biarrey, Peato Mauvaka, Yoram Moefana (2) and Thomas Ramos, who also scored 15 points from the tee.

Fabien Galthie's team, without Dupont as the mercurial scrum-half recovers from cheekbone surgery, won all their group games and are likely to face defending champions South Africa in the last eight on October 15th, even if Ireland and Scotland are still possible opponents for a place in the semi-finals.

New Zealand, who demolished Uruguay 73-0 at the same Groupama stadium on Thursday, finished second in Pool A on 15 points, three behind France.

France's Damian Penaud in action with Italy's Federico Zani and Lorenzo Cannone

Italy had a mountain to climb, having lost their last 13 matches against France, who were on a 17-game winning streak on home soil. It proved much too high and, a week after Kieran Crowley's team suffered a 96-17 humiliation by the All Blacks, they conceded their biggest defeat against their neighbours.

"The first step is done," France flanker and man of the match Gregory Alldritt said. "We're going to enjoy the weekend because it was a tough game today. We will do our recovery this weekend and then prepare for the quarter-final."

Galthie added: "We were always in control, from start to finish, that's what we wanted. We're going to enjoy it tonight before turning our attention to the last eight."

"They were just too physical, too powerful for us," admitted Crowley and his captain Michele Lamoro agreed.

"If you lose the physical battle there's nothing you can do. It's as simple as that," he added.


Key match stats

France's half-back pairing of Bordeaux club partners Maxime Lucu and Jalibert showed they were more than a replacement option as they combined perfectly throughout.

The 58,102 crowd clapped along to Italy's anthem, Fratelli d'Italia, but there was no mercy when the game started, with Penaud dotting down on his team's first phase of play for his 34th international try.

Ramos converted and added a penalty to put the hosts in the driving seat.

Bielle-Biarrey then ghosted past a couple of defenders to dive over after Jalibert and Penaud created an opportunity out of chaos in the Italian 22 metres.

It was then Ramos's turn to touch down after Penaud's offload spilt into his hand, leaving the full-back to trot past the line and convert effortlessly.

Italy made their first proper foray into French territory in the 26th minute.

In an ironic reference to Italy's 2006 soccer World Cup campaign, when the Azzurri beat France in the final, the stadium played the Italians' favoured "White Nation Army" by the White Stripes during some rare breathing space for the visitors.

Italy, however, got into their stride before the break, although Simone Ferrari's try was ruled out after a TMO review showed the prop's earlier tackle on Maxime Lucu was illegal.


The hosts added another try on the stroke of half-time as Penaud collected a splendid cross-field kick from Jalibert to go over again to become the second all-time France try scorer, three shy of Serge Blanco's tally of 38.

Jalibert was on the finishing end early in the second half as he finessed his way over with a dummy and some brilliant side-stepping.

Mauvaka scored France's sixth try as he bundled over from a maul before Galthie started to send the replacements in.

One of them, Moefana, added the seventh after being set up in the corner by Jalibert.

Italy finally got on the scoresheet thanks to Manuel Zuliani's try, which Tommaso Allan converted, but the Azzurri's slim hopes were already long gone.

Moefana added a last try for France and for good measure before the speakers blasted out Gloria Gaynor's hit "I will Survive" - France's theme song from their triumphant 1998 soccer World Cup campaign on home soil.

See a full match summary here. 


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