Wales 6-13 Italy

Reporter:

Tom Norris

Whoever writes the scripts for Gareth Thomas deserves another pat on the back.

When news broke earlier this year that Mickey O’Rourke was keen to play Thomas in a film there was an element of surprise on the face of the media but his life certainly lends itself to the silver screen.

Take 100 international rugby union caps for Wales, several appearances for the British and Irish Lions and a dramatic cross-code switch to the 13-man game and you have quite the story.

But Thomas seemingly penned another couple of scenes with a try scoring debut in international rugby league.

Indeed it took ‘Alfie’ just 10 minutes to burst over the try line for the opening try of the night before departing after half an hour in preparation for the start of the European Cup against Scotland this weekend.

Thomas was not the only man to be making his debut for Wales, although he certainly stole the headlines with his quickfire start.

An experimental Wales outfit, missing the likes of Lee Briers and Jordan James, successfully passed the early Italian test of punts towards the host nations try line; South Wales Scorpions ace Andrew Gay providing a safe pair of hands on more than one occasion.

Slowly but surely Wales grew in confidence and with the experienced Ian Watson, who was setting a new appearance record, and Danny Jones taking charge of the game, Iestyn Harris’s men looked dangerous.

Scrum-half Jones was more than happy to fizz the ball out wide and after a couple of near misses Thomas crossed for his try.

Lewis Reece stepped forward to take the kick and put Wales 6-0 in front with 10 minutes on the clock.

The hosts nearly doubled their try tally for the evening within minutes of the opener, but Lee Williams was excellently stopped by Italian livewire Christophe Caligari.

Italy started to come to the fore following Caligari’s inspiring save and had it not been for some good covering by that man Thomas the visitors would have scored their opening try, Rocky Trimarchi and Domenico Brunetta circling under a punt from Rhys Lenarduzzi.

It was Wales’ turn to attack next and Watson burst through only to be denied by a fine tackle from Raymond Nasso.

And much like Caligari’s earlier stop, the tackle boosted Italy’s confidence to try their luck going forward.

They failed to get past a resolute Wales backline, but a try did come their way in unusual circumstances as Thomas’s replacement Jack Pring fumbled the ball into the hands of Lenarduzzi and he found Caligari who crossed over.

Josh Mantellato duly added the extras to leave the game in the balance at the break.

Unfortunately for Wales and Harris the game was more one-sided after the interval, Italy taking command to dominate possession.

The Welsh try-line defence was impressive to bat away several attacks, including a score from Mantellato, who was pushed into touch by Reece.

Italy did get the score their dominance deserved however, Ben Falcone darting through to dive over with Mantellato converting.

The travelling party made sure of the win with a minute remaining, Ben Stewart adding a field-goal.

Wales: Gay, Bateman, Reece, Thomas, Williams, Jones, Watson, Dudson, Parry, Flower, Mills, Ross, G Davies. Replacements: C Davies, Greville, Burke, Lloyd, Wool, Carter, Pring.

Italy: D Nasso, Mantellato, Quitadamo, Brunetta, Caligari, Stewart, Lenarduzzi, Kaleopa, Tramonte, Vicelich, Trimarchi, Falcone. Replacements: Cuomo, Segundo, Sands, Nannini, Marcinczak, Zollo, Fusaro.

Referee: Ben Thaler (England).

Attendance: 2,791.
 

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