Rugby Union: Hayward launches Wales' tour

Zimbabwe 11 Wales 49
Click to follow
The Independent Online
IF Byron Hayward and Richard Rees could be forgiven for going on a Gazza or Sherri-style bender after marking their Welsh debuts with three and two tries respectively, the caretaker Wales coach Dennis John was at least keeping things in sober perspective after this opening tour triumph.

Victories of any shape or size are invaluable to Welsh rugby these days, especially when there are 18 top-choice players back home nursing injuries, but John will be the first to note that the South African provincial side Natal recently ran in 70 points against this Zimbabwean side.

So, after a few celebratory drinks, the Welsh coach will be asking his players to focus ahead on the challenge that faces them on the five-match, second leg of the tour in South Africa next week, when that same Natal side, under its new Super-12 moniker of the Coastal Sharks, will be among the opponents.

But neither will John be shy of telling his makeshift side that their eight-try romp was a lot more impressive than the full-strength team of 1993 was able to muster. They only managed 35-14 and 42-13 victories against the locals, scoring four tries in the first Test and six in the second.

What everyone in the Welsh party will realise is that if they repeat the same alarming number of errors they made in the first half then they will crash to humiliating defeats in South Africa.

Maybe it was the heat (the temperature topped 80C), the altitude (the match was staged at 4,500ft), or merely the fact it was the first time that many of the players had played together that contributed to an horrific opening 40 minutes.

One thing was certain, there was nobody running the game and Arwel Thomas was at his worst. He threw passes on the floor, got his midfield into trouble and kicked poorly both out of hand and at goal. Yet the Swansea man once again conjured up some magic and, for his own sake, it was just as well he was able to do that on the stroke of half-time.

The home side had drawn first blood with a second-minute penalty from the Bath outside-half Kenny Tsimba and regained the lead after 24 minutes when he notched his second penalty. That kick put his team ahead after Rees, the Swansea wing, had marked his first touch in international rugby with a storming 30-metre run for a debut try. That score came in the seventh minute and, Scott Quinnell's display apart, there was little to commend in the Welsh performance from then until the last move of the half.

Thomas received the ball moving left from a ruck on the Zimbabwe 22, feinted through the first line of defence, stepped inside the full-back and extended his record of tries for a Welsh No 10 to eight. His conversion made it 12-6 at the interval and, two minutes into the second half, he added a penalty. It was not, however, a good day for him with the boot and despite scoring 19 points he missed with five conversions and three penalties.

The second half belonged to another outside-half, though, as the Ebbw Vale hero Byron Hayward went on a try rampage on his debut. Not only did he grab a hat-trick, but he helped to make two others for the wings Rees and Wayne Proctor.

And all this came from the unlikely position of full-back, where he replaced the injured David Weatherley after 31 minutes. So impressive was Hayward in his new role that he might find himself doing more duty in the position.

Four tries in the final 10 minutes allowed Wales to finish with a flourish, but while that contributed a more pleasing look to the scoreboard, the fitness levels will also have pleased the coach.

Zimbabwe: V Olonga (High); G Campbell (Harare Sports Club), J Ewing (Harare Sports Club), B French (Old Hararians), R Karimazondo (Old Georgians); K Tsimba (Bath), R Bekker (Old Georgians); G Snyder (Harare Sports Club), W Barratt (Harare Sports Club), G Stewart (Old Georgians), B Catterall (Old Hararians), S Landman (Harare Sports Club), L Greeff (Old Hararians), M Mwerenga (Old Hararians), B Dawson (Old Miltonians, captain). Replacements: D Walters (Old Miltonians) for Karimazondo, 49; D Trevella (Orrell) for Tsimba, 60; N Nortje (Harare Sports Club) for Bekker, 70; I Neilson (Old Hararians) for Barratt, 72.

Wales: D Weatherley (Swansea); R Rees (Swansea), M Taylor (Swansea), D James (Pontypridd), W Proctor (Llanelli); A Thomas (Swansea), R Howley (Cardiff, captain); D Morris (Neath), G Jenkins (Swansea), J Davies (Richmond), M Jones (Ebbw Vale), A Moore (Swansea), N Thomas (Bath), M Williams (Pontypridd), S Quinnell (Richmond). Replacements: J Funnell (Ebbw Vale) for Taylor, 27; B Hayward (Ebbw Vale) for Weatherley, 31; P John (Pontypridd) for Howley, 78; B Williams (Richmond) for Jenkins, 56; C Wyatt (Llanelli) for Jones, 71; C Charvis (Swansea) for Quinnell, 56.

Referee: J Meuwesen (South Africa).