Last Saturday, Penarth RFC's Youth team welcomed and hosted over 160 players, officials and supporters from the Basque region of France.

On a day when the local weather plummeted in temperature in readiness for further snowfall, the Penarth RFC Youth boys just lost out by a late try to the Basque Select XV, from the South West of France, who won the game 19-12.

The French squad of 32, mostly third year youth players who were selected from 10 professional and semi-professional clubs from the Cote Basque Landes region of France and included representation from famous clubs, including Biarritz and Bayonne.

It was always therefore going to be a tough game for the much younger Penarth RFC Youth team but what a battle it turned out to be.

From the kick off, it was obvious that the French side would use their bigger ball carriers in the opening stages and it took quite a while for the Penarth players to get use to the physical battle ahead.

It was only 10 minutes into the game when a surge by the visiting pack took the ball close to the Penarth try line and with a driving maul off a line out they immediately used their weight to drive over the Penarth line and take an early 5-0 lead.

Advice and encouragement behind the posts by the Penarth coaches and captain Tom Griffiths saw the Penarth boys start to match up to the physicality of their opponents and 20 minutes into the game.

Following some good phases of play, the Penarth boys struck back when outside half Joe Williams was popped the ball by scum half Gruff Shewring on the blind side of a ruck to score and make the points level at 5-5.

Having realised that they could hold up the physicality of the visitors, the hosts started to use their ball skills to offload more and pushed into the opponents half only for the ball to be intercepted by the French team's flanker who outpaced the Penarth defence to score against the run of play under the posts. With the conversion made, the visitors went into half time with a 12 points to 5 lead.

Half time team talks from coaches Dai Williams and Simon Rees and some tactical changes on the field which saw experienced players prop Josh James, scrum half Morgan Rees and full back Harry Williams enter the field of play, seemed to settle the team and the Penarth boys, using the blistering cold wind behind their backs, started to dominate play against the visitors with outside half Williams pinning the visitors in their 22 and centres Rhys Beynon and Aron Arthur making good ground through the visitors defence.

Following a great touch finder from Williams into the French 22 following a penalty, hooker and captain Griffiths pinpointed second row Alex Shore in the lineout, the French pack impinged offside, and with advantage going to Penarth, outside half Joe Williams placed a superb cross kick to the corner for full back Harry Williams to catch and score the try. With the conversion sailing through the posts, the Penarth Boys drew level at 12-12, only 10 minutes into the second half.

Changes were made on the French side as they shored up their pack which was now being dominated by the Penarth eight and some strong runs by their number eight took the visitors back into the Penarth 22 metre area.

The Penarth defence, however, stood strong, with Penarth number eight Sam Sullivan especially powerful in the tackle area and with a crunching tackle coming in from Penarth prop Geraint Williams the French side dropped the ball 10 metres from the line.

Unfortunately, although seen by everyone, it was missed by the referee, who was unsighted, and the visitors played on to form a driving maul to drive over the Penarth line to score what turned out to be, the winning try, taking the final score to 19-12.

It was a brave performance by the Penarth Youth squad, up against a strong regional team, who last year won the Amicale Six Nations international tournament in France and some great learning points were taken from the fixture for the remainder of the season.

Following the game, the players and supporters from the Basque team gave a presentation to Penarth RFC club chairman Mike Gooding and Youth coach Simon Rees and a rendition of a local Basque folk song to the delight of the clubhouse.

It was a great experience for the Penarth players with many great new links made to the French region for both players and committee.