Morning Chronicle - Villiere hat-trick sends France top of Six Nations

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Villiere hat-trick sends France top of Six Nations
Villiere hat-trick sends France top of Six Nations

Villiere hat-trick sends France top of Six Nations

Winger Gabin Villiere scored three times as Six Nations contenders France beat Italy 37-10 in Paris on Sunday to move top of the table.

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Player of the match Villiere claimed his third try late on for Les Bleus who go above Ireland on points difference after the opening weekend.

The Azzurri lost for a record-extending 33rd consecutive time in the tournament despite leading early in the first half thanks to debutant Tommaso Menoncello's effort.

Before kick-off, the 62,187 crowd at the Stade de France paid their respects to former France fly-half Guy Laporte, who died last month aged 69, with a round of applause.

One major absence from the stands was the hosts' head coach Fabien Galthie as the former Test captain watched the game 40km away in the team hotel after testing positive for Covid-19 in midweek.

Galthie gave instructions via mobile phone to team manager Raphael Ibanez in the coaching box.

Rain fell intermittently from the third minute before Perpignan full-back Melvyn Jaminet opened the scoring with a penalty.

Neither side were able to control the game in difficult conditions before teenager Menoncello celebrated his Test debut by going over after 17 minutes to become the tournament's youngest try scorer, aged 19 years and 170 days.

The Treviso winger, one of 18 players from the franchise in the Italy 23, dotted down centimetres from the touchline from Paolo Garbisi's perfect cross kick after Jaminet had fumbled Stephen Varney's box kick.

France, captained by Antoine Dupont for the first time since the scrum-half was crowned world player of the year in December, took a grip on proceedings nine minutes later as Anthony Jelonch opened his international account.

The Toulouse flanker intercepted a Varney pass to slide over on the greasy surface unopposed from 15 metres out.

Jaminet's conversion hit the post before he and Garbisi traded penalties and Les Bleus led 11-10 after 35 minutes.

France's advantage was extended 34 seconds into additional time of the first half as 26-year-old Villiere scored his fourth try in nine internationals.

The hosts won clean lineout ball eight metres out and the Toulon winger, who was playing in the French third-tier just four years ago, glided over in the corner.

Jaminet's extras made it 18-10 at the break.

France continued to dominate despite the testing weather after the interval and Villiere deservedly claimed a second try after 48 minutes.

The home side won a turnover at a ruck and former seven-a-side specialist Villiere ran in from 30 metres.

Villiere's fellow winger Damian Penaud claimed the fourth try before the man of the moment claimed the necessary points to send them above next weekend's visitors, Ireland, with his third try, 70 seconds into additional time.