Gareth Thomas made his first appearance for Wales in Rugby League and his comeback from injury after three months on the sidelines, but played just 25 minutes as a very youthful Wales fell to an experienced Italian side containing a mixture of players from Australia, France, Italy and the UK.
With the important first Alitalia European Cup match in Scotland just days away, coach Iestyn Harris chose not to pick his first choice line up but instead fielded an experimental side with 13 new caps including five players from the Wales under 18 squad who hadn’t even yet made their first senior club appearance.
Lee Williams thought he’d followed Thomas over two minutes after the opener, but hit the corner flag when diving for the line.
Italy weren’t going to lie down and forced a goal-line drop-out. They had a chance to score but Thomas was first to a high bomb aimed for Domenico Brunetta and Christophe Caligari. Ryan Tramonte was also close but held short of the line.
They finally levelled things on 34 minutes. Following a 70-metre run from Rhys Lenarduzzi, Caligari, the experienced former French junior international was on-hand to ground. Josh Mantellato converted.
Italy put all the early second half pressure on the youthful Welsh line-up and were rewarded 19 minutes into the second period when rising star Ben Falcone scored in the corner. Mantellato did well to convert to put Italy 12-6 up.
There could have been a further score but for Reece’s try saving tackle on Raymond Nasso, forcing him into touch.
Lewis Reece looked to have gone over for a score-levelling try with five minutes to go but was pulled back for a forward pass.
But there was no way through for Wales against a solid Italian defence and the visitors held on for an historic win with Ben Stewart kicking a final minute drop goal for good measure.
WALES (new caps in bold)
1. Andrew Gay (South Wales Scorpions)
2. Ashley Bateman (South Wales Scorpions)
3. Lewis Reece (South Wales Scorpions)
4. Gareth Thomas (Crusaders)
5. Lee Williams (Crusaders)
6. Danny Jones (Keighley Cougars)
7. Ian Watson (Swinton Lions)
8. Gil Dudson (Crusaders)
9. Steve Parry (South Wales Scorpions)
10. Ben Flower (Crusaders)
11. Lewis Mills (Crusaders)
12. Jordan Ross (York City Knights)
13. Geraint Davies (Limoux Grizzlies)
14. Rhodri Lloyd (Crusaders)
15. Harri Greville (South Wales Scorpions)
16. Joe Burke (South Wales Scorpions)
17. Chris Davies (Crusaders)
18. Mark Wool (Leeds Rhinos)
19. Dafydd Carter (Crusaders)
20. Jack Pring (Crusaders)
Tries: Thomas (9)
Goals: Reece 1/1
1. Dominic Nasso (Parramatta Eels)
2. Josh Mantellato (Newcastle Rebels)
3. Rob Quitadamo (XIII del Ducato)
4. Domenico Brunetta (Grifons Padova)
5. Christophe Caligari (Palau)
6. Ben Stewart (Windsor Wolves)
7. Rhys Lenarduzzi (Sydney Roosters)
8. Andrew Kaleopa (Cabramatta)
9. Raymond Nasso (Windsor Wolves)
10. Ryan Tramonte (Windsor Wolves)
11. Dean Vicelich (Leoni Veneti)
12. Rocky Trimarchi (Crusaders)
13. Ben Falcone (Wests Tigers)
14. Alessandro Cuomo (XIII del Ducato)
15. Marcelo Segundo (XIII del Ducato)
16. Matt Sands (Grifons Padova)
17. Fabio Nannini (XIII del Ducato)
18. Jonathan Marcinczak (West Bowling)
19. Liam Zollo (Grifons Padova)
20. Mauro Fusaro (Leoni Veneti)
Tries: Caligari (34), Falcone (59)
Goals: Mantellato 2/2
Referee: Ben Thaler