Wales produced a real shock on the opening day of the Six Nations championship yesterday when they defeated reigning world champions England in Swansea – only the second time they have beaten their old rivals. A new-look England side, fielding seven new caps in the squad, were without 14 of their World Cup winners, with two retired and 12 playing in the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series. And they struggled to cope with a much more fluid Welsh team who were lifted to victory by a strong home crowd.
The only other time Wales have won this fixture was in 2009, when they edged the game 16-15.
A tight opening half remained pointless until just moments before the break, when Wales took the lead courtesy of a Laurie Harries penalty. The lead was then extended with a try in the 51st minute courtesy of Catrin Edwards. They had been controlling possession and territory early in the second half, and they made their heavy pressure pay as prop Edwards drove over from close range.
England’s Megan Goddard then wasted a chance to reduce the arrears with a missed penalty and matters then worsened for England when World Cup winner La Toya Mason was carried off the field on a stretcher. The scrum-half was replaced by another debutant in Bianca Blackburn.
Goddard saw two further penalty attempts sails wide for England as they struggled to impose themselves on the tie. They did have Wales pinned back in their half for much of the last quarter but the home side had the final word with wing Harries making the most of a Elinor Snowsill kick to run in an injury-time try.
“The important thing is this victory must not be a one-hit wonder,” said Wales captain Rachel Taylor. “We have to recover well and prepare for what is going to be another massive challenge against Scotland at the weekend.
“We knew they were there for the taking because of the changes that have gone on since they won the World Cup and, unlike in previous years, we were able to do something about it.”
And a delighted Harries added: “The buzz within the Welsh camp for the past few weeks has been amazing and I don’t think we have ever felt like this before.
“We had the belief that we could go out and beat the world champions and that’s exactly what we did – it’s the best feeling I have ever had.”Reuse content