28th October 2018, 15:17
Report: France 54-18 Wales
Wales began their European Championship and 2021 World Cup qualification campaign with defeat to France.
Photo by Ian Lovell
By the half an hour mark, France had established a 26-0 lead and it was always going to be difficult for Wales to turn it around from there.
Once the visitors did manage to settle into the game, they began to make life more difficult for the French and crossed for two tries late in the first half to pull the deficit back to 14 points at half-time.
But the Dragons weren’t able to sustain the pressure, three tries in a short spell early in the second half put France back in the ascendency and they saw the match out from there.
Within the opening few minutes, France were awarded a penalty in front of the sticks as Gavin Bennion put a high shot on Jason Baitieri. They opted to kick for goal and Tony Gigot was successful with the boot for an early 2-0 lead.
After a nice right to left shift, Gigot drilled a grubber kick towards the left corner and Paul Marcon gathered to force his way over for the first try of the match.
A couple of minutes later, France grabbed their second through Hakim Miloudi, who intercepted Josh Ralph’s pass along the line within his own 40 metres to race clear and finish underneath the sticks.
When Wales mounted their first real attack of the game, they thought they’d scored. Chester Butler and Ben Morris showed good hands to put Rhys Williams, the current all-time leading try scorer, over in the corner, but referee James Child adjudged that he had dropped the ball as he went to ground it.
France made their visitors pay as, after forcing a goal-line drop-out, they created an opening down the left flank and Gigot produced a fine cut-out pass to put Marcon in at the corner for his second.
On the half an hour mark, the French crossed for their fourth of the evening through Bastien Ader, who shrugged off four attempted tackles to finish out wide.
In the final ten minutes of the first half, however, Wales managed to get a foothold in the game and put the French line under sustained pressure.
Butler was stopped inches short of the line as he tried to force his way over, before France’s defence scrambled well to hold Curtis Davies up after he scooted from acting half.
But Wales did finally get their first points on the board when Josh Ralph came up with a lovely show-and-go to step inside and touch down next to the posts.
With the last play of the half, the Dragons bagged their second as Rhodri Lloyd managed to offload the ball out of the tackle for Elliot Kear to cross, reducing the deficit to 14 points at half-time.
However, France came out in the second half ready for the arm wrestle and built on their lead soon after the restart.
After shifting the ball across the line, Ader tipped the ball on to Marcon down the left flank and, with options limited, he managed to hack a kick inside for Gigot to grab a deserved try.
Although Williams then did well to knock a testing Gigot kick dead for a goal-line drop-out, France added more points in the resulting set as Rhys Curran hit a good line to collect Thibaud Margalet’s pass from dummy half and crash over.
The next French try was the pick of the match. Lucas Albert made a half break, managed to free his arm and offloaded inside, looking to find the men in support. Although it fell at Gigot’s feet, the fullback was able to kick forward and Escare won the race to pounce on the ball in the corner.
With the home side in the ascendency at this point, Wales dug in to their credit and stood up well to a couple of repeat sets on their own line.
When they went up the other end, they bagged their third try. Fages dropped the ball near his own line, Lloyd reacted quickest to chip the ball ahead and Olds dropped on it for a debut try before any defenders could defuse the situation.
70 | TRY FOR WALES! It's @olds_james on his debut. France come up with an error, @Rhodrilloyd93 hacks the ball forward and Olds manages to get on the end of it. #WalesRL 🏴🐉🐲 pic.twitter.com/37UP0cNnuj— Wales Rugby League 🏴 (@WalesRugbyL) October 27, 2018
But France added some further gloss to their victory with two quick-fire tries in the final minutes.
Fages put Romain Navarette over with a short ball near the line, before Escare grabbed his second as he got on the end of a neat Margalet grubber kick into the in-goal area.
FRANCE: Tony Gigot, Morgan Escare, Bastien Ader, Hakim Miloudi, Paul Marcon, Lucas Albert, Theo Fages, Romain Navarette, Alrix da Costa, Jason Baitieri, Benjamin Jullien, Rhys Curran, Mickael Goudemand. Subs: Thibaud Margalet, Bastien Escamilla, Lambert Belmas, Stanislas Robin
Tries: Marcon (8, 21), Miluodi (12), Ader (29), Gigot (46), Curran (53), Escare (58, 79), Navarette (76)
Goals: Gigot 7/8, Albert 2/2
Elliot Kear, Dalton Grant, Ben Morris, James Olds, Rhys Williams, Courtney Davies, Josh Ralph, Ben Evans, Steve Parry, Dan Fleming, Rhodri Lloyd, Chester Butler, Gavin Bennion. Subs: Curtis Davies, Sion Jones, Chris Vitalini, Connor Davies
Tries: Ralph (36), Kear (39), Olds (70)
Goals: Olds 3/3
Referee: James Child (England); HT: 26-12; Wales man of the match: Dan Fleming
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🎟 TICKETS | Going to 🏴 #WalesRL v @Irelandrl at @Wrexham_AFC’s Racecourse Stadium?— Wales Rugby League 🏴 (@WalesRugbyL) October 25, 2018
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