By Hannah Blackwell
Carys Phillips has admitted it had been a long two years before the comeback game she marked with a hat-trick of tries for Wales.
The former Wales captain – mysteriously overlooked since her father Rowland and the Wales Women set-up parted company – scored three tries in Wales’ superb 29-19 victory over South Africa at Cardiff Arms Park on Saturday.
Former Wales coach Warren Abrahams claimed the door was still open to Phillips when he briefly took over, but it is only since the recent arrival of Nigel Walker as WRU director of rugby that Phillips has added to her 51 Test caps.
Less than a week after starting their autumn campaign with a 23-5 success over Japan, Wales backed up that result with an impressive display against the southern hemisphere giants.
Hooker Phillips scored a fine treble and benefitted from her team’s forward dominance while scrum-half Ffion Lewis also crossed.
Elinor Snowsill kicked three conversions and a penalty as Ioan Cunningham’s side stayed unbeaten this autumn.
“To be fair, it’s a hell of a feeling,” said Phillips.
After two years without a win, Wales Women now have two to their name in the space of six days. They were impressive yesterday; Carys Phillips making a world of difference. She scored a hat-trick while Wales’ scrum was dominant. Report from CAP: https://t.co/O65PL45sAz
— Alex Bywater (@_AlexBywater) November 14, 2021
“It’s been a long two years and to come back to that intensity was tough, but fair play to the girls they put in a hell of a shift.
“South Africa are a tough team and we got the win in the end, so happy days.”
Wales made a fine start.
Bethan Lewis made a clean line break, the home scrum was more than solid, and the opening try came when recalled Phillips was driven over from a powerful driving maul. Snowsill converted and it soon got even better.
Wales’s men’s side had struggled at the scrum against South Africa last weekend, but their women were faring far better. From another dominant set-piece, Lewis went over. Snowsill couldn’t miss.
Wales played some fine first-half rugby. Their breakdown work wasn’t perfect, but they moved the ball well although it must be said South Africa offered very little to the game.
The visitors were struggling to such an extent that loosehead prop Yonela Ngxingolo was substituted before half an hour was played.
It didn’t stop more Welsh forward dominance from giving Snowsill the chance to kick a simple penalty. Wales went to the break 17-0 to the good.
Blowing 😂💨 https://t.co/qy9HlhJ06D
— Carys Phillips (@CarysPhillips2) November 13, 2021
South Africa captain Nolusindiso Booi escaped a card for a dangerous clear out before the break on Wales wing Courtney Keight.
Keight failed a head injury assessment at half time after the collision and didn’t return to the field.
South Africa also lost Sinazo Mcatshulwa who left the field on a stretcher. Wales’s third try arrived when Phillips was again driven over.
Snowsill’s kick hit the post and South Africa, who had been appalling for the first 50 minutes, then hit back when wing Nomawethu Mabenge powered over in the corner.
The conversion was impressive. South Africa had finally offered a threat, but their comeback attempt was halted by a yellow card for replacement Unam Tose for a high tackle.
Phillips completed her treble not long after and while Zintle Mpupha and Libbie Janse van Rensburg grabbed breakaway South African consolations, Wales were deserving winners.