Rugby League European Championship – France 54 Wales 18 – Report
France head for their World Cup qualifying showdown with Ireland next Saturday in confident form, after a comprehensive nine-try win over Wales at the Stade Albert Domec, Carcassone,
Aurélien Cologni’s men dominated the opening exchanges and just after half time, the power of forwards Romain Navarette and skipper Jason Baitieri, allied to the guile of Tony Gigot – who finished with 18 points – and Theo Fages the decisive factors.
“We are happy because the players wanted to start the tournament well,” said Cologni. “It was a very important victory and we worked hard for it – we returned to French principles.”
Cologni added: “I was very pleased with our offensive side and how we retained our passion in the second half.
“Wales are building a team for the next World Cup, like us, they have some young quality players and can have a better vision for the future.”
France took a fourth minute lead when Gigot elected to kick a penalty after a high tackle, the full back’s grubber to the corner uncovering Paul Marcon for the first try on the left soon after, Gigot with the conversion from out wide.
Hakim Miloudi intercepted Josh Ralph’s pass to go 40 metres to the posts, Gigot’s goal making it 14-0 in as many minutes, as the hosts got off to the perfect start.
Wales exerted their first pressure capitalising on a French error, Rhys Williams denied a try after he was deemed to have knocked on in the act of scoring.
That proved to be a possible 12-point turnaround, Les Bleus marching up field on the back of a penalty and creating more space on the left for Toulouse winger Marcon to grab his second touchdown, Gigot again successful with the boot from wide out.
Centre Bastien Ader got through his man on the half hour to cross and at 26-0, the French were in complete control.
Wales, though, showed excellent resolve to get themselves back in the contest by the break. Chester Butler was stopped just short after a fine run, Curtis Davies was just held out, but the French defence could not deny the side-stepping Ralph, James Olds with the extras.
Right on half time, Rhodri Lloyd’s fine slipped pass saw skipper Elliot Kear cross, Olds landing the difficult goal.
France re-took control seven minutes into the second half, again exploiting the left, Marcon kicking inside for Gigot to gather.
Williams conceded a drop out from which Rhys Curran forced his way over, and four minutes later good interplay spilt the Welsh ranks, Wigan’s Morgan Escare winning the race to a delicate chip behind the visiting defence.
Dan Fleming and Ben Evans helped shore up the Welsh defence and the Dragons were rewarded for their endeavours when Olds, on debut, won the race to Lloyd’s hack forward from a French mistake, Olds with his third goal for a 10 point haul.
France finished strongly, Navarette bursting through and Lucas Albert’s grubber on the last play of the game, releasing Escare for his brace; Albert successful with the late goal kicking duties.
Wales head coach John Kear commented: “The French played really well. Obviously the likes of Gigot, Fages and Albert – and Escare on the wing – coupled with their experienced forwards – had too many smarts for our developing team – congratulations to them, I wish them well for the rest of the Championship.”
With proceeds from the gate money given to the Aude flooding disaster fund, €12,000 was raised.
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: (all used) 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 (all used) Curtis Davies, Sion Jones, Chris Vitalini, Connor Davies
Tries: Ralph (36), Kear (39), Olds (70)
Goals: Olds 3/3
Referee: James Child (England)
Half time: 26-12
Man of the match: Tony Gigot