Maxime Baudonne scored two tries once again as France U18s battled to a 40-32 victory over Italy on day two of the U18 Six Nations Festival at Sixways.
As he had in the win over Ireland, the flanker made the difference, as Les Bleuets raced into a 28-8 half-time lead.
However in the second half Italy fought back well and gave France a scare until Thibault Debaes’ late score sealed the win and made it two from two for the French.
Italy monopolised possession in the opening minutes, scoring an early penalty through Mattia Ferrarin when the French were caught holding on.
Les Bleuets responded though, running in three tries in ten minutes to seize control of the match. The opening try was from their first real attack, full-back Simon Desert finishing. Off the top of a lineout around halfway, the ball was spread with two flat passes to No.8 Jean-Baptiste Lachaise. He arced around the man opposite him, fended him off and then found Desert on his shoulder. The full-back had more than enough pace to get to the line. Edgar Retière converted from the touchline, with the help of the post, to make it 7-3.
A second try followed a minute later, Baudonne popping up in midfield to pick off a pass from Ferrarin and race home from halfway.
And by the quarter-hour they had a third, second row Matthias Halagahu dotting down after a powerful rolling maul five metres out. Retière converted again and France were 21-3 to the good.
Italy hit back, getting their hands on the ball for the first time in a while. After good work from the forwards, Ferrarin put in a clever cross-kick, which was batted down by Andrea Pancini. Luca Gruttadauria collected and then fed back to Pancini who squeezed over in the corner.
However it was France who had the final say of the half, Baudonne getting his second after a clever chip by scrum-half Théo Idjellidaine into space, the flanker collecting in acres of space and going over. Retière’s conversion from wide on the right made it 28-8 at the break.
As they had in the first half, Italy dominated possession early, and this time they were able to convert it into points. The French had resisted long passages in their own 22, but off the back of a powerful scrum, No.9 Stephen Varney sniped and glided over virtually untouched to cut the deficit.
France responded immediately though. Retière got them on the front foot with a clever step and offload. Italy averted the initial danger, turning the ball over, but from the clearing kick, Ferrarin took too long and was charged down by replacement prop Paul Mallez who then collected to crash over. Retière’s conversion made it 35-13.
Once more the Italians looked good in possession, and they were able to force France back into their 22. The power of the forwards told as they hammered away up to the line, with replacement prop Dorin Tica eventually forcing his way over. From in front, Leonardo Marin converted.
And the comeback was well and truly on when Lorenzo Cannone crossed for another try soon after, Les Bleuets with no answer to the power of the Azzurrini forwards. The conversion was missed but Italy were back to within ten points.
France looked shell-shocked, but from a turnover the ball was quickly spread to centre Debaes, and he had the pace to sprint home in the left corner.
Italy deservedly had the final say though, with Tica grabbing a second after a rolling maul. Marin converted with the final kick of the game.