Wales defeat Springboks in autumn Test series opener

Jaz Joyce 16/3/2018
An impressive defensive performance ensured Wales kicked off their autumn Test matches with a 19-7 triumph against Springboks at Cardiff Arms Park.

An impressive defensive performance ensured Wales kicked off their autumn Test matches with a 19-7 triumph against Springboks at Cardiff Arms Park.

Tries from Jasmine Joyce, Sioned Harries and Carys Phillips proved the difference for Rowland Phillips’ young side, with Robyn Wilkins adding four points from the tee.

The Springboks showed plenty of endeavour and managed to score a consolation try through Lusanda Dumke, but they struggled to penetrate the Welsh rear-guard effort.

Wales started on the front foot and earned the first penalty after dominating South Africa’s scrum in the opening minutes, but the hosts were unable to capitalise as they lost the ball.

A further setback came after just six minutes when influential back-rower Alisha Butchers was forced off with injury, with 17-year-old Manon Jones coming on for her debut as her replacement.

They put the disappointment swiftly behind them moments later, though, with Olympian Joyce showing her pace to cross for the opening try from 15 metres out.

A pass from inside centre Kerin Lake made space for the electrifying winger, who was never going to be stopped as she put Wales 5-0 ahead, with Robyn Wilkins unable to add the conversion.

The Springboks looked to find an instant response, but an unconvincing lineout meant they struggled to impose themselves on the hosts, who won the ball back after a knock-on.

The Welsh defence also proved a worth adversary, containing South Africa’s attack with an assured performance, before making their own pressure pay just before half-time.

Sioned Harries powered over the whitewash after a relentless period of possession, with Wilkins making up for her earlier miss to extend Wales’ lead to 12-0 at the interval.

With their tales up at the break, Wales continued to dominate proceedings after the restart and threatened to score a third score, but Mel Clay dropped the ball as the tryline beckoned.

South Africa were not done yet, however, and No.8 Aseza Hele thought she had narrowed the deficit after going over in the corner, only to see the try disallowed for a forward pass.

The tourists were given further encouragement when Harries was sent to the bin after interfering with the ball at the base of a ruck.

Wales continued to soak up the pressure despite being a player down, with every player in a red shirt put their body on the line to keep the Springboks out.

They eventually found a way through with the clocking ticking down when Hele broke free from a scrum close to the Wales tryline, before offloading to flanker Dumke to score.

But just as it looked like being a nervy finish, Phillips sealed an impressive display in the front row to crash over from close range and secure a 19-5 victory for Wales.

Player Watch – Carys Phillips

Captain Carys Phillips set the tone from the first whistle for the hosts, making plenty of yards with the ball in band alongside fellow forward Sioned Harries.

The 25-year-old hooker also ensured Wales dominated at scrum time and played a key role in the incredible defensive effort, which saw off intense pressure from the Springboks.

She capped off a fine individual display by sealing victory for Wales in the closing minutes, crossing from short range after a powerful driving lineout.

Key moment

Wales began to turn the screw just before the interval and piled the pressure on the visitors, with Alecs Donnovan going close to scoring their second try before being denied by Demi Nel.

South Africa eventually buckled, though, and Nosiphiwo Goda was sent to the sin bin for killing the ball on the floor to give Wales a player advantage.

And after another powerful scrum from the hosts, powerful No.8 Harries dragged three defenders with her over the line as she delivered the key score just before the break.

Stat Watch:

– Alecs Donovan made her first start for Wales against the Springboks – The victory ended a run of four games without a win for Rowland Phillips’ side – Manon Jones came off the bench to make her Test debut at just 17 years old