Wales A firing on all cylinders

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French Combined Services 15 Wales A 21

If there was confusion over the name of their hosts, there was no doubting that the young players who make up the Bataillon de Joinville side can provide quality opposition.

The Welsh Rugby Union were assured by the French Federation that the game was an official A international. The sign on the French dressing-room door at Stade Jean Bouin said: "France A".

Yet the team lists claimed the home side was "Militaire Francais". But then, what's in a name?

The Welsh second-string players got the chance to taste victory overseas, the coaches got a rare opportunity to work with their squad over a full week and the result made it a useful weekend for the Welsh system. The Welsh Students posted their first victory on French soil, 18-9, in Le Creseot the previous night, adding to the sense of Welsh achievement. Two matters need to be resolved in the future, however.

Firstly, the Welsh need to be sure they are playing the designated French second-string - the France A team chosen by the national selectors beat Scotland A 12-10 in Glasgow on Friday night - and they must also ensure they are not forced to play on such an appalling pitch again.

The surface on which they were asked to play was an insult to their status and made the game less of a spectacle. It was just as well that the rain did not start to fall until the end of the game.

The French were combative throughout, but fell foul of the experienced Irish referee, Brian Stirling, at the end of a stormy first-half. Stirling had issued a stern warning following an outbreak of unseemly fighting and wrestling among the front rows midway through the half and had little option other than to dismiss the flanker, Olivier Magne, for a wreckless, late challenge on Steele Lewis.

The referee had no hesitation in pointing to the dressing-rooms, despite lengthy protestations from the home captain, Eddy Joliveau, and that decision played a huge part in turning the game.

By the interval the French wing, Patrice Labeyrie, and Adrian Davies had kicked three penalties each and it took the Welsh a further 25 minutes to snatch the lead with the game's first try.

By that stage the French pack were wilting under the strain of losing a player and it was no surprise when the Pontypool No 8, Gareth Taylor, bagged a push over try, which Davies converted.

If the lead still looked slightly precarious, and the performance slightly lacking, a superb move up the left wing set the seal on victory as Gwilym Wilkins, Davies and Paul John combined for the latter to cross.

French Combined Services: Penalties Labeyrie 5. Wales A: Tries Taylor, John; Conversion Davies; Penalties Davies 3.

French Combined Services: P Boudouy (Narbonne); S Rouch (Grauhlet), S Detuncq (ASB Herault), G Bouic (Agen), P Labeyrie (Dax); F Duberger (Agen), B Marty (Brive); S Trybusch (Brive), S Begon (Grenoble), L Netelenbos (Aurillac), E Joliveau (Dijon, capt), S Larue (Rumilly), O Magne (Dax), C Donjieu (Bayonne), R Sonnes (Toulouse).

Wales A: I Jones (Llanelli); D Manley (Pontypridd), S Lewis (Pontypridd), D Edwards (Leicester), G Wilkins (Bridgend); A Davies (Cardiff), P John (Pontypridd, capt); A Dibble (Treorchy), J Humphreys (Cardiff), L Mustoe (Cardiff), G Prosser (Pontypridd), M Rowley (Pontypridd), A Gibbs (Newbridge), G Taylor (Pontypool), P Crane (Newbridge). Temporary replacement: B Williams (Neath) for Humphreys, 20-24.

Referee: B Stirling (Ireland).

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