Source: INPHO

Wales finish on a high

  • +1

Italy v Wales – Six Nations – Round Five
Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, Parma

Result: Italy 10 Wales 36
Player of the Match: Alex Callender

The looming arrival of the WXV meant that every point scored in Parma would take on extra significance. To ensure their place in Tier 1 Wales had either to win or gain one of the two possible bonus points on offer. Simple, but daunting. Italy hadn’t lost at home to Ireland, Scotland or Wales for six years.

Once again the Azzurre failed to produce the goods when the omens seemed propitious. In sharp contrast, Wales have risen from the slough of despond to gain a place in that top tier.
This was Sara Barattin’s 116th and last appearance. Her debut was in 2005; I hope you can remember that year clearly. Just as time-spanning, but in the front-row, Caryl Thomas has played her last game for Wales. She has given seventeen years’ service to her country.

Times have changed. The Welsh squad spent the entire week between rounds in Parma, trying to avoid enjoying Italian cuisine to excess, but getting used to local conditions. The move paid dividends.

The Game

Keira Bevan started another enterprising game with a reverse pass to Sioned Harries. It led directly to a penalty which Bevan slotted. (0-3) That’s exactly how Wales had started their England game; this one would prove different.

There were too many small errors in the early stages to allow full enjoyment, but the visitors were superior at the set-scrum. One led to a penalty and a kick to the right corner. Sisilia Tuipulotu’s drive was halted, but a second penalty saw Bevan take a quick tap. She couldn’t make the line either, but Bethan Lewis could. (0-10)

Veronica Madia did well to dot down In the left corner to renew Italian hopes (7-10), but then underlined their weakness by fumbling the resulting drop-out.
The mixture of errors and adventurous play brought great excitement, but a lot of uncertainty too. Both sets of coaches must have been praying for more cohesion, more consistency.

Michela Sillari brought her side level with a penalty, but from there the Welsh took command of the scoreboard. Before the break Tuipulotu got her regulation try – she takes a lot of stopping – to bring a half-time lead of seven points.

Italy had played in their usual style, with adventurous handling movements and off-loads. When they worked, they looked like magicians, but all too often a pass was forced or mistimed, and Wales could pick up the scraps for profit.

Beatrice Rigoni was once more the centre of attention, but for every remarkable play she achieved, there was a balancing error. She produced the first through-the-legs pass to a team- mate I’ve spotted this tournament, but other offerings were less positive. 10-17.


From the turn-round Wales provided all the scoring, each one adding to their confidence and delight. Harries scored a relatively soft try from a forward drive. (10-24)
Now we saw the final departure of another great, Sara Barattin left the scene after a stellar career. Her team suffered a blow when Giada Franco (No 8 again today) went down with a leg injury, not to return.

On the three-quarter mark Elinor Snowsill started a move that saw Carys Williams-Morris make a big break and set Alex Callender free to score.

Ten minutes from time Kerin Lake, making a welcome return from injury, chalked up Wales’ final score to give them a commanding lead that Italy hardly ever looked like reducing.
So they are fated to occupy fifth place in the championship, which – as fate would insist – means they have to face Spain yet again in a play-off to decide who qualifies for Tier 2 of the WXV. They had promised so much better. They have talented youngsters coming through, but the coaching staff still has a lot of work to do to widen the skill range. Cutting out avoidable errors would be a sensible first step.


Italy: 15. Vittoria Ostuni Minuzzi; 14. Aura Muzzo, 13. Michela Sillari, 12. Beatrice Rigoni, 11. Alyssa D’Inca; 10. Veronica Madia, 9. Sara Barattin (captain); 1. Gaia Maris, 2. Vittoria Vecchini, 3. Lucia Gai, 4. Valeria Fedrighi, 5. Giordana Duca, 6. Sara Tounesi, 7. Isabella Locatelli, 8. Giada Franco
Bench: 16. Emanuela Stecca, 17. Alice Cassaghi, 18. *Alessia Pilani, 19. Laura Gurioli, 20. Alissa Ranuccini, 21. Sofia Stefan, 22. Emma Stevanin, 23. Beatrice Capomaggi

Wales: 15. Courtney Keight; 14. Lisa Neumann, 13. Hannah Jones (captain), 12. Lleucu George, 11. Carys Williams-Morris; 10. Elinor Snowsill, 9. Keira Bevan; 1. Gwenllian Pyrs, 2. Kelsey Jones, 3. Sisilia Tuipulotu, 4. Abbie Fleming, 5. Georgia Evans, 6. Bethan Lewis, 7. Alex Callender, 8. Sioned Harries
Bench: 16. Carys Phillips, 17. Caryl Thomas, 18. Cerys Hale, 19. Bryonie King, 20. Kate Williams, 21. Ffion Lewis, 22. Kerin Lake, 23. *Amelia Tutt

Referee: Joy Neville (IRFU)
Assistant Referees: Aurélie Groizeleau (FFR) and Mary Pringle (SRU) TMO: Ben Blain (SRU)

Final Table

                                      W​      L​       Pts

England​​​                        5         0        28
France                          4        ​ 1         21
Wales ​​                          3         2        15
Scotland      ​​                 2         3        10
Italy                               1         4         4
Ireland    ​​                      0         5         0  ​


In the continued absence of Elisa Giordano, Nanni Raineri returned to Sara Barattin as captain, a fitting gesture to Italy’s most distinguished representative.

Ioan Cunningham brought back his No 1 front row, to nobody’s surprise. Alex Callender was an important addition to the back row, and Keira Bevan was the final, equally unsurprising choice at No 9.

A fine crowd turned out. Let’s hope they weren’t too put off by the diapppointing result.