France secured their first victory of the 2018 NatWest 6 Nations campaign, beating Italy 34-17 in Marseille.
Paul Gabrillagues, Hugo Bonneval and Mathieu Bastareaud scored the hosts’ three tries as they won for the first time in nine matches.
A first-half penalty try and a late score from Matteo Minozzi put Italy on the board but they rarely looked like mounting a serious challenge as the hosts dominated throughout.
France settled early nerves inside the Stade Velodrome when Gabrillagues scored his first international try in the corner in the sixth minute after a fruitful lineout maul.
Maxime Machenaud was unable to add the extras, sending his tricky conversion attempt just wide.
Italy were given a penalty three minutes later and, after opting to kick for touch, they drove over the line and referee Wayne Barnes awarded the visitors a penalty try for a collapsed maul.
A couple of blockbusting runs from wing Remy Grosso got the home crowd on their feet but eventually came to nothing before a Machenaud penalty handed France an 8-7 lead in the 29th minute.
France continued to search for opportunities to score and came agonisingly close six minutes before the break when, less than two metres from the line, the ball hit Bastareaud’s knee, handing Italy the chance to recover.
France were awarded another penalty on the brink of half-time and Machenaud made no mistake, extending his side’s lead to 11-7.
The home side started the second half brightly and could have extended their lead in the 43rd minute but after carrying the ball deep into Italy territory, Lionel Beauxis misjudged his pass and the ball was knocked on.
After Beauxis missed a drop goal attempt minutes later, Machenaud scored another penalty to put France 14-7 in front.
The visitors went on the attack, with Sebastian Negri bursting towards France’s 22, but they conceded a penalty and the hosts were then able to come forward.
And a well-worked try gave France breathing space in the 60th minute as Bonneval went over after good work by Bastareaud and Grosso in the build-up.
After converting the try, Racing 92’s Machenaud then kicked two further penalties to put France 27-10 ahead before leaving the field as the hosts made a series of changes.
France scored another try in the 73rd minute when Bastareaud powered over to complete a good move which started with Marco Tauleigne’s break forward. Francois Trinh-Duc converted to send France 34-10 in front.
Italy were down but not out and they hit back with a late try through Matteo Minozzi in the 79th minute, with Carlo Canna adding the extras.