Boyer and France sink Italy


Pau, France, June 10, 2017 – France overturned a 1-0 deficit to dominate Italy 3-1 (21-25, 25-21, 25-21, 26-24) as Stephen Boyer was once again the star of the show with 19 points in Saturday's action in the 2017 World League's second week.

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The 21-year old continued where he left off last game when he scored 20 points as les Bleus dominated Russia 3-1 for the second time in a week to claim a fifth straight victory. With his performance against Italy, Boyer moves into second position in the scoring ranking, just behind Belgium’s ace Bram Van Den Dries. Italy's defense proved efficient against the highflying Frenchmen, claiming eleven blocks, including three for Trentino's Simone Giannelli. His club teammate Luca Vettori also shone as he scored a team high eleven points but that wasn't enough to compensate for the Azzurri's 31 errors.

Les Bleus came into this replay of last season's World League bronze medal match, when France beat Italy in straight sets (25-23, 25-21, 25-20), as firm favourites, having won their last five World League matches against Italy since the 3-1 intercontinental round defeat on 19 May 2012. On top of that, current form seemed to favour the home nation, who have dropped just two sets in four games, both of them at the hands of Russia.

With players such as Kevin Le Roux, the competition's best blocker, Stephen Boyer, the competition's top server, and the magician setter Benjamin Toniutti, France seemed strong enough to overcome anything Italy could throw at them. Even without their star player Earvin Ngapeth, who is still recovering from injury. Especially as Italy haven't tasted victory since their opening 3-0 win over Iran.

And France drew first blood with a monster point from Trevor Clevenot but two strong serves by Luca Vettori saw Italy recover quickly from an initial mishap (5-4). Italy's defense then proved more efficient, claiming two blocks to help the three-time world champions increase their lead (16-13), leaving the French chasing the score throughout the entire set. After a second technical time out, Laurent Tillie's men rallied as Le Roux served two straight aces to put his side back into contention (22-20). But Italy managed to contain France's attacks and claimed their first set of the second week (25-21).
In the second set, Boyer stymied Italy's progress and, with two strong serves, help les Bleus take the lead early on (8-4). The Chaumont opposite spiker continued his demolition party as he piled on the pressure on the Azzurri (16-9). A monster block by Le Roux followed by a smart one from Rossard then give France a decisive the lead (21-15) and Simone Giannelli served into the net to close the set 25-21.

It was more of the same in the third as France and Italy started neck and neck (8-8). Julien Lyneel was unstoppable as the Bunge Ravenna player piled on the pressure to increase the gap to five (19-14). Iacopo Botto put an end to Lyneel streak but it was not enough to stop the French onward march as the 2015 winners surged to a 2-1 lead on a Giulio Sabbi missed serve (25-21).

After over one hour and thirty minutes of play, it all came down to who would stay the freshest. France started strong thanks to a good Lyneel serving streak (5-1). But Italy are formidable opponents and they hit back superbly as they moved into a 9-8 lead. But Lyneel showed up once more, scoring six points in this fourth and final set to put France back on top (12-10). And Boyer added a few points to his tally to seal the deal for France as Le Goff blocked a last ditch attempt by Sabbi (26-24).

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