First Wales game for Thomas ends in humbling defeat despite early try

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The Independent Online

After 100 rugby union caps, Gareth Thomas marked his first in league by scoring Wales' only try in a shock 13-6 defeat to Italy in Wrexham last night.

Wales failed to capitalise on a good start as they went down to enthusiastic opposition drawn from the domestic competition in Italy, as well as players of Italian descent from Australia.

The former British Lions captain, who had recovered from the groin injury that kept him out of the latter stages of Crusaders' Super League season, struck in the ninth minute, going over after taking a lofted pass from Ian Watson, who was breaking Jim Sullivan's record for Wales caps.

If Wales imagined they would have it all their own way after that, they were soon disabused, with a well-organised Italian team drawing level by half-time thanks to a try from Christophe Caligari. They took the lead on the hour through Ben Falcone and an increasingly desperate home side knew the game was up when Ben Stewart put over a drop goal with four minutes to play.

The match, postponed from Sunday because of a water-logged pitch at the Racecourse Ground, was Wales' preparation for playing Scotland, France and Ireland in the European Cup, the winners of which will in turn qualify for next season's Four Nations.