The NSW Blues have been named for the first game of the 2017 #Origin series.
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Wales were outclassed but not disgraced as they went down 26-8 to France in the under 16 international in front of almost 200 at Abercynon on Thursday evening. It was no surprise that the visitors walked away with their first win in their third and final game of their British tour. They have been training together for months, some of them possibly years, while the young Welsh side had just three weeks to prepare for two tough internationals. This match was a vast improvement on their previous outing, a 36-6 defeat against England on Good Friday, but just like that match at Sardis Road, they were under pressure from their visitors from the outset. Amar Sabri was first to score for the French, this after Wales' only serious touch of the ball was the kick-off. Wales' inexperience also showed in attack. Like the performance from the country's football team the night before, the chances were there and had they been taken then the game could have been a lot closer. While Welsh attackers failed to notice men in space when nearing the try-line, France didn't have that problem increasing their lead in the 13th minute when Alexis Rodriguez latched onto a grubber kick to place the ball under the sticks. Just like at Sardis Road last week, Wales had passion and commitment. Refusing to give up, they finally got on the scoresheet four minutes later when Bridgend's Karl Davies grounded after running past four Frenchmen. France hit back after man-of-the-match, Cedric Barnaguad set up Maxime Herold to score but Wales once again pulled the deficit back to six when Aberavon's Brett Thomas forced his way through just before half-time. France started the second half in a similar fashion to the way they started the first, scoring on their first set, Auurelien Besset grounding. Once again, Wales attempted to fight back but didn't have the killer punch shown by the visitors. However they impressed when the decided not to take the easy way out and kick an easy penalty but attempt to run it home. Their plan almost worked but Valley Cougars' Scott Collins was forced into touch just as he attempted to ground in the corner. France completed the scoring in the 55th minute through a Mathias Pala try. Either side of this they had two tries disallowed, Martin Albert's effort was ruled out because of a forward pass while Kevin Liguoro's was cancelled out because of an off-side. From the resulting penalty, Wales had a final chance to get back on the scoresheet but Collins' 60-metre run was brought to a holt 20 metres from the line allowing the French defence to regroup. The French team had a long journey home as they headed back to Dover by coach straight after the match. The trip for me was a little shorter - it's the closest to home that I've ever written a match report as I live just ten minutes walk from the ground!
RUGBY LEAGUE U16 INTERNATIONAL WALES 8 FRANCE 26 Wales: Craig Lewis (Valley Cougars), Matt Saunders (Valley Cougars), Michael Conway (Valley Cougars), Chris Brett (Bridgend Blue Bulls), Sam McCoy (Monmouth Schools), Ryan Miles (Bridgend Blue Bulls), Tom Griffin (Valley Cougars), Kris Dacey (Valley Cougars), Garyn Lucas (Valley Cougars), Michael Chandler (Monmouth Schools), Alex Dally (Valley Cougars), Jake Thomas (Valley Cougars), Karl Davies (Bridgend Blue Bulls). Subs: Brett Thomas (Aberavon Fighting Irish), Deak Beck (Aberavon Fighting Irish), Aaron Bray (Aberavon Fighting Irish), Sam Jones (Monmouth Schools), Jason Davies (Bridgend Blue Bulls). Tries: K.Davies (17), B.Thomas (30). Goals: Brett 0/2 France: Kevin Liguoro (Charles Cros), Alexis Rodriguez (LYC V. Hugo), Maxime Herold (LYC Sabatier), Cedric Barnaguad (LYC Bellevue), Mathieu Vidal (LYC Maillol), Aurelien Besset (LYC Sabatier), Fabien Bourrel (LYC Sabatier), Samy Masselot (LYC Bellevue), Vincent Lautrette (LP Batiment), Adrien Maurel (LYC Bellevue), Florian Quintilla (LYC Agr Prive), Martin Albert (LYC Sabatier), Amar Sabri (LYC Sabatier). Subs: Marvin Gellet (LYC De Craponne), Ludovic Galinier (LP Aucouturier), Julien Espunga (LP Rene Bonnet), Mathias Pala (LYC Sabatier), Lilian Revol (LYC De Craponne). Tries: Sabri (3), Rodriguez (13), Herold (26), Besset (35), Pala (55). Goals: Bourrell 3/5 Half-time: 8-14 Referee: Colin Neale (Rhondda). Men of the Match: Wales - Garyn Lucas. France - Cedric Barnaguad. Gamestar: France's Cedric Barnaguad gave a true captain's performance. His strong runs down the centre earned France plenty of metres and was instrumental in setting up more than one try. Gamebreaker: Quintilla's tackle on Collins which forced him into touch as he was about to ground. A saved try that was that was Wales last true chance to get back into the game. NB: The match was played in 30-minute halves.