The winger Rhys Williams played down his achievement after he became Wales' all-time leading try-scorer. The 22-year-old, who is currently on loan from Warrington to Castleford, touched down on the stroke of half-time in Wrexham for his 12th international try, to equal the record held by his team's coach, Iestyn Harris. He scored a second on the hour.
"I'd rather have not scored and the team win than break the record and the team lose," Williams said. "I'm delighted with the tries but I would have preferred the win."
Williams' efforts were among a host of pleasing aspects of the game for Harris, as his young side made France fight all the way.
"We're disappointed because it's a Test match we feel we could have won but there were massive positives for the future of Welsh rugby league," said Harris. "There were a lot of guys unavailable who will be available at the end of the year, but the young guys stood up and showed they're ready for international rugby. We're on a journey to the World Cup and beyond and I think we're in a pretty good state.
"If you take Jordan James and Christian Roet out, everyone is under the age of 25 and we had some 17- and 18-year-olds who stood up well against an experienced French side."
The Welsh had six youngsters on debut in the absence of five regulars through injury in addition to their Australia-based players. The French were able to call on six Catalan Dragons. Led by Jordan James, on his 25th appearance, the Welsh enjoyed a promising opening but the danger signs were there when the France scrum-half, William Barthau, wriggled over the line – only for the referee, James Child, to disallow the try for a knock-on.
The opening score came right from a Catalan training-ground move, the full-back Cyril Stacul taking Thomas Bosc's inside pass to glide over for the first of his two tries on 15 minutes. Bosc kicked the goal and the visitors dominated the rest of the half without being able to fully make their pressure count.
The second-rower Antoni Maria was held up on his back over the line and the winger Jrmy Guiraud was brought back for a forward pass before the loose forward Grgory Mounis took Barthau's defence-splitting pass and wrong-footed the home full-back, David James, to score his side's second try eight minutes before the interval.
Wales grabbed a foothold in the game on the stroke of half-time when they worked the ball left and Williams took David James's pass to go over for his first try.
The Welsh then made an impressive start to the second half but the second-rower Andy Bracek's clean break petered out and the centre Roets was ruled offside when he touched down Danny Jones's kick to the line.
France re-asserted themselves when the prop Mathieu Griffi burst through to score two tries in seven minutes, the second after a superb break by another front-rower, Mickaël Simon. In between Griffi's double the impressive David James scythed through for a try and combined with Roets to get Williams over.
Jones converted both second-half tries to make it 22-16, but the French made sure of the victory when their captain, Oliver Elima, broke clear and Bosc sent Stacul over for his second try. Bosc kicked a fourth goal.
France's caretaker coach, Aurlien Cologni, said: "It was a tough game for us but we knew beforehand that it would be. This is a new team for us and I'm very pleased with the young players we brought in."
Wales: D James; Pring, Channing, Roets, Williams; Jones, Olds; J James, Parry, Emmitt, Bracek, Lloyd, Divorty. Substitutes used: Fleming, I Brown, Burke, Moss.
France: Stacul; Guiraud, Baile, Pala, Soubeyras; Bosc, Barthau; Griffi, K Bentley, Simon, Elema, Maria, Mounis. Substitutes used: Pelissier, Bemba, A Bentley, Larroyer.
Referee: J Child (England).