Bitter-sweet bow for Thomas
Gareth Thomas made a tryscoring debut for Wales but finished on the losing side as Italy fought back to claim the spoils 13-6 in tonight’s re-arranged international at the Racecourse Ground.
The 36-year-old, who missed the last two months of his first season of Engage Super League with Crusaders RL because of a groin injury, took just nine minutes to score the game’s first try and Lewis Reece added the goal to give Iestyn Harris’ team a 6-0 lead.
However, Thomas was withdrawn after 25 minutes and a youthful Wales succumbed to an experienced Azzurri side containing players drawn from Australia, France and the United Kingdom as well as Italy.
With Sunday’s opening Alitalia European Cup match in Scotland in mind, Harris chose to rest most of his regulars in favour of an experimental side with 13 new caps, including five players from the Wales Under-18 squad who have yet to make a senior club appearance.
Former French junior international winger Christophe Caligari scored an equalising try and Ryan Tramonte’s second-half try, which was also converted by Josh Mantellato, put Italy 12-6 up.
Reece had a try disallowed for a forward pass five minutes from the end and Italy winger Ben Stewart kicked a last-minute drop goal to clinch the victory.
Afterwards Harris said: “We can take some real positives into Sunday’s game against Scotland.
“Gareth Thomas was great for the half-hour that he played, Ben Flower was good after coming back from injury and Gil Dudson looked good too. We’re all looking forward to Sunday now.”