The returning Mathieu Bastareaud set up a try and scored one of his own as France got off the mark in the Six Nations, delivering Jacques Brunel his first win as coach with a 34-17 defeat of Italy at the Stade Velodrome.
Les Bleus had experienced less than ideal preparation for their first home Six Nations match to be played outside Paris, with a host of players dropped by Brunel following controversy surrounding a night out in Edinburgh after their loss to Scotland.
The result was a disjointed performance in which perennial tournament whipping boys Italy were never really put to bed until Hugo Bonneval crossed on the hour mark to give France an 11-point lead.
That try was in part orchestrated by Bastareaud, who returned as skipper after serving a three-week ban for use of homophobic language, and served as the high-water mark of an encounter otherwise low on inspiration.
Bastareaud added his name to the scoresheet late on by barging his way over from close range, with Italy seemingly poised for yet another wooden spoon, having lost their 15th Six Nations game in a row, a record low point.
France started brightly and needed only six minutes to open the scoring, pouncing on some Italy indiscipline as Paul Gabrillagues touched down from a rolling maul.
But Maxime Machenaud missed a relatively routine conversion and Italy promptly responded with a hugely effective maul of their own that was collapsed as they surged for the line, the TMO awarding a penalty try to the Azzurri.
Les Bleus wasted a pair of attacking openings as they sought to regain the advantage, and eventually did so as Machenaud atoned for his earlier miss following further pressure from the hosts.
Machenaud then nudged France further ahead before half-time after they forced an Italy turnover, giving them a four-point advantage at the break.
He and Tommaso Allan traded three-pointers to start the second half as Italy kept themselves within striking distance, until Bastareaud proved his quality by starting the move of the match.
The centre sucked in three Italy defenders and offloaded to Bonneval, who then combined down the left with Remy Grosso to cross, Machenaud's conversion making it 21-10.
France continued to dominate thereafter and Machenaud added two further penalties before Bastareaud powered across, with Matteo Minozzi providing late consolation for Italy after the kind of surging breakaway that the game had called out for in its quieter moments.
Key Opta stats:
- France have won all 10 of their home games against Italy in the Six Nations, those wins coming by an average margin of 18 points.
- Three of Hugo Bonneval's four tries for France have come against Italy.
- This win ended a run of eight games without a win in all competitions for France (L7, D1), their worst winless run since 1968-69 when they went 11 games without a victory.
- Luca Bigi (Italy) became the first player in the 2018 Six Nations to receive a yellow card.
- Mathieu Bastareaud scored just his fourth try in 43 Test appearances and his second against Italy, it was the first ever Test try he has scored in France.
|Charnley switches back to league to join Warrington|
|Barcelona? I´m staying with PSG, insists Marco Verratti|
|Bastian Schweinsteiger & Ana Ivanovic announce birth of son|
|The numbers behind Cristiano Ronaldo´s 50 hat-tricks|
|Woods relishing end to frustrating Augusta absence|
|Consistency the only thing stopping me from being the best, claims Depay|
|Guardiola second to none tactially, says Man City midfielder Gundogan|
|McIlroy: Bay Hill win a huge confidence boost for Masters|
|F1 2018 Pre-Season Report: Mercedes|
|F1 2018: The best Opta facts ahead of the new season|
|Liverpool captain Henderson ponders Salah and Suarez comparison|
|Messi worried by the uncertainty retirement brings|
|F1 2018 Pre-Season Report: Ferrari|
|Hunt handed ban and fine but cleared to return|
|Rants, criticism a familiar story – Is Mourinho set for Man United exit?|
|Guptill added to Black Caps squad|
|Thunder end Raptors´ streak, Davis stars|
|Stars goalie Bishop expected to miss at least two weeks|
|Messi desperate for World Cup success|
|Federer frustrated by Indian Wells final defeat|
|Del Potro: I can´t believe I won Indian Wells|
|Napoli causing Juventus problems as Sarri revels in crucial win|
|Balbirnie happy to boost Ireland chances|
|The better Ronaldo is, the better Madrid will be – Vazquez lauds four-goal hero|
|Ireland inspired by retired team-mates – Sexton|
|Indian Wells crown surreal for Osaka|
|F1 2018: Everything you need to know|
|Salah ´unstoppable´ like Messi, says Watford boss Gracia|
|Demanding Mourinho is still special, insists Matic|
|Truex Jr sweeps stages and wins first race of 2018|
|Woods pleased with progress at Bay Hill|
|McIlroy cruises to victory at Bay Hill, where Tiger impresses|
|Dallas 3 Seattle Sounders 0: Dempsey sees red after VAR|
|Ronaldo ´from another galaxy´, says Zidane|
|Del Potro saves match points to stun Federer for Indian Wells title|
|Eusebio Sack-ristan: Real Sociedad part company with head coach|
|Fassone ready for Gattuso talks after Milan resurgence|
|Napoli 1 Genoa 0: Albiol goal maintains pressure on Juve|
|Real Madrid 6 Girona 3: Four-goal Ronaldo continues hot streak with 50th career hat-trick|
|USA boss Sarachan calls up Weah for Paraguay friendly|
|Excellent Leipzig deserved Bayern win - Heynckes|
|Marquez will sleep easily after last-ditch Qatar move|
|Conte impressed by Morata´s return to scoring form|
|I lost the game myself - Simeone accepts responsibility for Atletico Madrid defeat|
|Borussia Dortmund to delay final Stoger decision - Zorc|
|Toulouse topple leaders Montpellier|
|Puel stands by Schmeichel after FA Cup blunder|
|Neymar could be back for Coupe de France final, says Silva|
|Valverde waits on Iniesta answer as Barcelona captain considers exit|
|Magnificent Osaka claims maiden title at Indian Wells|
|Villarreal 2 Atletico Madrid 1: Unal deals LaLiga title race blow for Simeone´s men|
|Leicester City 1 Chelsea 2 (aet): Pedro and Morata send Conte´s men through|
|RB Leipzig 2 Bayern Munich 1: Werner strike seals memorable triumph|
|Gattuso demands lift from out-of-favour Kalinic|
|Karthik hits final-ball six to win Nidahas Trophy|
|Messi puts us where we are right now - Alcacer hails Barcelona superstar|
|Dovizioso holds off Marquez in Qatar to draw first blood|
|Sampaoli ´right´ to pick others - Icardi understands Argentina snub|
|Barcelona 2 Athletic Bilbao 0: Messi and Alcacer secure comfortable success|
|Hughes excited by Southampton quality|
|Nice prepared for ´likely´ Balotelli departure|
|Wales captain Jones set to miss summer Tests|
|Germany defender Halstenberg extends RB Leipzig contract|
|No offers for Roma´s Alisson, says Monchi|
|Constant compliments guarantee defeat, claims Inter boss Spalletti|
|Scoring 100th Serie A goal at Sampdoria was ´destiny´, says Icardi|
|Stoger happy with Gotze response after public criticism|
|AC Milan 3 Chievo 2: Silva spares Rossoneri once more|
|Silva confident Neymar´s future is at PSG|
|´Shameful´ PSG cannot buy a team, says Balotelli|