Wales 3 Australia 2

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Seen Wales play football in some strange spots over the years – Qatar, San Jose and Minsk come to mind.

Llanwern High School in Newport doesn’t quite match them for exoticism.

This friendly, earlier today, pitched the Welsh Schools FA under-18s against the Aussies’ under-19s. 

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The £30m school opened in April 2012 and was keen to show itself off before the match. This was the official opening of the floodlit pitch.

In the dance studio beforehand, assembled guests heard from a variety of bigwigs, including head Peter Jenkins and Welsh Minister for Culture and Sport John Griffiths, who is also the AM for Newport East.

After snaffling some cracking chocolate biscuits from the buffet it was time for action.

It was all Aussie for pretty much the whole of the first half. Football is predominantly an immigrants’ game over there and the squad list – with  surnames like Papas, Ossato, Mercurio, Zafiridis, Coletta, Tsekenis and Popovich – reflected that.

But the player who caught everyone’s eye was the number four midfield general Nicholas Kerr whose first time passing and quick decision-making had connoisseurs purring.

Nothing to do with the game but I had to get this in - Achtung! German hairdressers' spotted in Somerton
Nothing to do with the game but I had to get this in – Achtung! German hairdressers’ spotted in Somerton

Wales featured three players who are pupils at the school – Tre Marrett (his first name’s not the abbreviated Welsh word for ‘town’), Lewis Jones and skipper – and what better surname could there be for a footballer? – Jesse Victory. Parents perhaps watched a lot of Westerns?

The squad also featured Callum Margetson, from Neath. Related to a certain ex-Welsh keeper?

And if number seven Kostya Georgievsky from Gower College, ever makes the senior side he will surely be the most exotically-named Welsh international since Dick Krzywicki- a son of Flint and a player I never saw play but who I instinctively liked just because of his tongue-teasing title.

It was, frankly, bewildering that Wales went 2-0 up in 25 minutes.

First, striker Peter Jones of Llandrillo College set up Prestatyn lad Zyaac Edwards to slip the ball past the keeper.

The Welsh team line up before the match
The Welsh team line up before the match

Then a brilliant swirling cross from Bridgend boy Tom Walters found Jones criminally unchallenged by either Aussie centre-half near the penalty spot and he headed in.

They’d been the only two Welsh attacks in that time.

The minutes either side of half-time produced the Aussie goals as the impressive Oliver Zafiridis levelled the game.

It looked like the visitors would go on to take victory as their all-round play was generally sharper and their technique more impressive.

Spot the ball! Yes, it's in there somewhere
Spot the ball! Yes, it’s in there somewhere

It got pretty feisty then for a friendly and only one lad got booked when several players should have suffered yellow admonishment.

The Aussies’ centre-halves were the key to the game – their errors leading to the first two Welsh goals and their inability to cut out threats leading to the winner.

After about 65 minutes, Llanwern pupil Lewis Jones curled in a peach of a free-kick to the far post and Fairwater High schoolboy Ross Davies headed in.

And then with the 70-minute mark reached, as often happens with younger players, fatigue kicked in and for the marsupials, there was no more water in the billabong, no more puff in their pouches.

They simply ran out of gas and passes went wildly astray where they once glided smoothly over the grass.

Wales, buoyed by the lead, were at their best from this point on and, given it was the team’s first match alongside each other, the win was a welcome boost ahead of the home internationals this spring.

Wales: Lewis Thomas, Sam Pearson, Tom Walters, Laurie Haworth, Lewis Jones, Aron Davies, Jesse Victory (c), Kostya Georgievsky, Sam Faulkner, Peter Jones, Zyaac Edwards. Subs used – Tre Marrett, Emlyn Lewis, Ross Davies, Callum Margetson, Alex Jarman and Keighan Jones.

Goals: Zyaac Edwards 12, Peter Jones 25, Davies 65,

The Welsh team play Ireland at Cefn Druids on March 6, England at Wrexham on March 14, Scotland at Hamilton on March 21 and Northern Ireland at Knockbreda on April 16.

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