Source: 6 Nations

Wales at last!

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Cymru v Italy

This was the start of a thrilling three-act play. For once the soupy title “Super Saturday” lived up to its billing.

Lucia Gai appeared first, to celebrate a well-deserved 100 caps.

Two early box-kicks didn’t bode well, and as we look back with hindsight, we can see that the game was more littered with unforced errors than the two that followed. But Italy could occasionally explode into top form.

A good first scrum for Wales showed their strengths. Lleucu George kicked to five metres out. What followed didn’t follow suit. The line-out they drove wasn’t properly set, it crumbled. Then followed a series of rumbles close to the line, spoiled by forwards standing too close and flat to the breakdown to build up a head of steam and drive over. Finally they were held on the line, a knock-on ensued and Italy won the scrum.

At once the game switched to the other end. Fortunately for them, Wales won a relieving penalty.
Their first profitable move came from a short throw-in, allowing Carys Phillips to run a distance. The ball swung left to Carys Cox on the left, who made a break. As the ball came back again, a forward pass undid the good work. All very basic.

But then the Azzurre were caught by surprise. Wales repeated the same line-out manoeuvre, but now Phillips had less far to run – try! 5-0

Could they avoid the ususal immediate riposte? No! After a sudden turnover at a breakdown Alyssa D’Inca fed Vittoria Ostuni Minuzzi, who scurried over on the right. 5-7

Despite all her good touches George couldn’t remain faultless; she kicked straight into touch. Gloucester-Hartpury fans will know how often she has done that in the PWR.

Once more Wales ran the ball promisingly down the line to Cox, who made more ground. But as the ball came back, two poor passes spoiled the picture.

Just before the break Beatrice Rigoni won a penalty on the ground – she was sure the verdict had gone against her and protested. When she realised which way the referee’s arm was pointing, she changed her mind and slotted three points.

Half-time: 5-10

It had been messy game thus far, too many unforced errors.

Gai came on at once to warm applause, but Wales started on top, driving at the line. After several
short jabs, Gwenllian Pyrs powered over. Keira Bevan converted. 12-10

The cynic in me wondered: how long till they concede this time? Not yet! But they did mangle a great chance when Hannah Jones quite needelessly pushed a retreating Sara Tounesi to the ground as she chased her own long kick. The referee was watching on, five metres away. What a waste!

It was better news when Bevan kicked a penalty from straight in front. 15-10

Now came the quick response I’d been fearing. Italy reverted to their lightning quick mode for Francesca Granzotto, recently on at 15, to cross the line; a delightful try. 15-15

Most Italy-Wales games turn into nail-biters; this one didn’t disappoint.

Wales looked to have restored their lead with another quick-witted move. Alisha Butchers made a great break, then reappeared to swing left and offer Alex Callender what might have been a scoring pass; she dropped it. The stadium gulped in disbelief. It was such a pity for her; she’d been non-stop activity as usual.

It was gripping stuff, so much at stake. Wales were on top in most facets of play, but the two Italian centres presented a constant menace. The hosts were nearly over three times through their backs, Jenny Hesketh, Lisa Neumann and Cox. Instead, the Azzurre built another fast move; they seemed to be running out of space on the left, but no, Emma Stevanin still managed to get over the line. 15-20
Now they were behind, the Welsh had to stand up and be counted. George helped immensely by picking out a monstrous 50:22 from a narrow angle.

But more agony: Wales pounded at the line. Were they over? It was hard for the referee to know where to position herself. Then came a knock-on (or possibly two?), well inside the 5m line. Georgia Evans had finished over the line with the ball. It was an exceptionally tight decision; Wales argued the toss. The conversation between referee and TMO didn’t seem lucid. Of course Wales were despondent at failing to be given their try.

But then – drama cubed! Wales held a scrum, Gwennan Hopkins made a break; the pack took turns to edge closer in. It was, almost inevitably, Sisilia Tuipulotu who powered over for a score- equalling try. No need to wonder why she hadn’t been replaced! The stadium erupted. 20-20

With Keira Bevan long back on the bench, it fell to George again to score the absolutely vital two points. We could forgive her if her head was full of bad memories of the odd past failure, but she held her nerve, and Wales had their first win of the campaign and their first home win over Italy for an incredible twelve years.

And there were two more games to come, promising just as much heart-stopping drama!

Result: Cymru 22 Italy 20


15 Jenny Hesketh 14 Lisa Neumann 13 Hannah Jones (captain) 12 Hannah Bluck 11 Carys Cox 10 Lleucu George 9 Keira Bevan 1 Gwenllian Pyrs 2 Carys Phillips 3 Sisilia Tuipulotu 4 Natalia John 5 Abbie Fleming 6 Alisha Butchers 7 Alex Callender 8 Georgia Evans
16 Kelsey Jones 17 Abbey Constable 18 Donna Rose 19 Kate Williams 20 Gwennan Hopkins 21 Sian Jones 22 Niamh Terry 23 Nel Metcalfe

15 Beatrice Capomaggi 14 Aura Muzzo 13 Alyssa D’Incà 12 Beatrice Rigoni 11 Vittoria Ostuni Minuzzi 10 Emma Stevanin 9 Sofia Stefan 1 Silvia Turani 2 Vittoria Vecchini 3 Sara Seye 4 Sara Tounesi 5 Giordana Duca 6 Ilaria Arrighetti 7 Francesca Sgorbini 8 Elisa Giordano (captain)
16 Laura Gurioli 17 Gaia Maris 18 Lucia Gai 19 Valeria Fedrighi 20 Isabella Locatelli 21 Beatrice Veronese 22 Veronica Madia 23 Francesca Granzotto

Referee: Aimee Barrett-Theron (SARU)
ARs Sara Cox (RFU) and Chelsea Gillespie (SRU)

TMO: Rachel Horton (RA)
AB-T equalled Cox’s world record of 38 tests in charge.

Attendance 10, 592, a new record for a women’s game at the Principality.


Wales had lost their last seven games, so the question was whether they could stow the bad memories away and reach the standards they knew they were capable of.

After all, they had eleven of their Six Nations squad based at Gloucester-Hartpury, the only unbeaten club in the English PWR. More to the point: why hadn’t they been reproducing that form at international level?

“WRU face second Six Nations disaster in a month” is not the sort of headline to send your confidence soaring as you trot out to face a crucial match. But that is how a leading Welsh website chose to support its women’s team.

It was good to see Rowland Phillips, the former head-coach, in the crowd.

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