Despite Keira Bevan’s late penalty to ensure victory for the Wales women’s rugby team in their opening 2021 Rugby World Cup match against Scotland,
it wasn’t the best performance from Ioan Cunningham’s side who led 15-5 at the break.
Last weekend, they flew out of the blocks with an early try from flanker Alisha Butchers, with a successful conversion and a penalty from Elinor Snowsill. Scotland replied through hooker Lana Skelton, before Wales fullback Kayleigh Powell finished a wonderful team try.
By comparison, Scottish fly-half Helen Nelson wasn’t having a good day with the boot as she missed eight points from the tee in the first half alone. That would ultimately contribute to the close nature of the game’s closing scoreline.
Closer analysis will show in the second half, Wales struggled to continue where they left off as they let the Scots back into the game. A second-half brace from Scottish winger Megan Griffiths compounded as the Welsh side was sent down to 14 on two occasions. Yellow cards were awarded against prop Cara Hope and winger Jasmine Joyce, each sent to the bin.
However, Wales regathered the restart with the clock in the red and played 25 phases before winning a penalty as Scotland was pinged for offside. After a long discussion between senior players, replacement scrum-half Bevan was given the responsibility and nailed the kick to seal a dramatic win.
So, with a huge challenge coming up against New Zealand in round two, Last Word on Rugby correspondent Iestyn Thomas looks at the areas that will need improving ahead of Wales’s second game.
Just a disclaimer, it was a very good performance by this Welsh side. During the Six Nations they were known to be slow starters, but the opening quarter was highly impressive.
Wales women’s rugby team analysis – (1) Discipline
One of the key issues that haunted Wales for most of the afternoon would be their discipline.
Cunningham’s side conceded 18 penalties during the 80 minutes, with number 8 Sioned Harries being the worst offender on three.
On the other hand, Scotland had only given away seven penalties. That area alone would hand a team like New Zealand simply too many opportunities to score or gain easy meters.
(2) Support at the breakdown
Another element of the game that wasn’t perfect would be the breakdown.
Some of the carrying on by the Welsh forwards was superb, although on a couple of occasions the supporting players weren’t protecting the ball carrier enough. This led to some moments of scrappiness around the rucks.
(3) Set piece improvement needed
While the lineout was faultless for the entire afternoon, sadly the same couldn’t be said about the scrum as Wales were caught on the back foot on several occasions. Scotland had a real edge on the scrum which saw Hope receive a yellow card due to the pressure being applied and with many scrums being inside Welsh territory.
(4) Game management
Despite leading 15-5 at halftime, Wales lacked game management throughout the second half. A couple of errors crept in, a couple of offloads were played without being caught.
Maybe Cunningham’s team was trying too much when they needed to keep their opponents camped inside their half and try to force them to make errors by playing from deep? Questions about the way this match was managed will need to be addressed midweek.
Can it be fixable in time for NZ?
Next up, Wales will be facing off against the hosts New Zealand who are one of the favourites to win the competition alongside England. In terms of fixing, the squad will have had the full seven days to look back and prepare.
Wales women’s rugby team will face New Zealand Sunday
They will have more time together on the training park to work on the support in the breakdown to make sure the support is there and efficient to clean out the rucks. Game management is going to be key for this Wales women’s rugby side; they will need to know when to kick and kick well. to stand any chance of staying in the fight against the Black Ferns just to stay in the contest.
Although in the bigger picture, it’s a squad that has recently transitioned to being professional rugby players. It might have been a scrappy performance, but a win is a win. Even saying that this Welsh women’s side does have some improvement to do.
New Zealand v Wales – Sunday, October 15 – Waitakere Stadium
“Main photo credit courtesy of Welsh Rugby Union twitter“