By Kasey Rees
Wales Women were defeated 29-15 in their final autumn Test against the Barbarians, despite showing signs of a successful comeback.
The Barbarians produced a dominant first-half performance and were first on the score sheet with Charmaine McMenamin diving over the line for the try just after kick-off.
Wales women barely left their own half in the opening 40 minutes, allowing the visitors to score a further four tries.
Lauren Harris, Jenny Murphy, Anna Caplice and former Wales full-back Dyddgu Hywel all crossed the line for the Barbarians. Hywel came out of retirement to face her former side and marked the occasion by scoring a superb individual try.
It was the first meeting between the two sides in the women’s game. Not only that, but it was a historic occasion for the Welsh Rugby Union as it was the first time a double header with such a short turnaround had taken place at the Principality Stadium.
In the absence of head coach Rowland Phillips, 14 players were given their debuts by Chris Horseman.
Despite their loss the stand-in Wales coach remains optimistic about the future.
He said: “We made a few defensive errors in the first half, I think we didn’t back ourselves enough and conceded tries. The one at kick-off was a soft try and I think it went multi-phase which was my message to the girls at half-time.
“I told them that we had to execute in two or three phrases both sides of the ball, and that we had to have confidence in our line speed to shut them down in two phases and force some errors, which we did.
“It was good tactical awareness in the second half that earned us those three tries.
“It was a massive occasion against a team made up of some of the best players in the world, but it shows with a young group and blooded strength in depth that we can certainly compete with the best in the world.
“It was fantastic as the game went on to see supporters come in and get behind the girls.
“It was great for them and hopefully at the end of the match they saw what we were about.”
Wales women came out firing in the second half and produced a strong performance to break down the Barbarians.
Their hard work and patience paid off as Lisa Neuman, Keira Bevan and Alex Callender crossed over the line to bring the score to 15-29.
In front of a crowd of more than 12,600 fans, Wales women left it to the last minute to try and overturn the visitors, but it wasn’t to be.
So, Wales women ended their autumn campaign with three wins out of five, and despite the loss they showed what they are capable of throughout the campaign.
Wales captain Siwian Lilicrap said: “I think we showed a lot of character and belief today especially in the second half as we showed some great attacking play.
“What is exciting is that if we did that for the full 80 minutes, we would be very dangerous.
“Whenever we play, we want to go out and do the jersey and nation proud. In my eyes this campaign has been nothing but successful, to put on the Welsh jersey and play in this stadium alongside friends and family is an honour and it was a special moment for me and one that I will treasure for the rest of my life.
“As soon as the crowd came in with that roar to get behind us, it felt like there was another player on the pitch and that goes a long way. Today, we wanted to create memories and put a stamp on what we are about. In that second half, we did that.
“I am absolutely proud of every single girl who wore that jersey today and played on that field. But now we have got to keep going forward, we can’t just stand still now.”
Wales Women: Lauren Smith, Paige Randall, Megan Webb, Kerin Lane, Lisa Neuman, Elinor Snowsill, Keira Bevan, Gwenllain Pyrs, Kelsey Jones, Cerys Hale, Natalia John, Gwen Crabb, Robyn Lock, Beth Lewis, Siwan Lilicrap ©
Replacements: Molly Kelly, Gwenllain Jenkins, Amy Evans, Abbie Fleming, Ffion Lewis, Robyn Wilkins, Kayleigh Powell.
Barbarians Women: Tess Gard’ner, Lauren Harris, Ariana Hira, Jenny Murphy, Dyddgu Hywel, Ruahaei Demant, Brianna Miller, Steph Te Ohaere-Fox ©, Clara Nielson, Silvia Turani, Eloise Blackwell, Rebecca Clough, Paula Fitzpatrick, Anna Caplice, Charmaine McMenamin.
Replacements: Sasha Acheson, Saki Minami, Senia Sairo, Beth Stafford, Alycia Washington, Ashlee Byrge, Sene Naoupu, Annabel Sergeant.
Player of the match: Jenny Murphy (Barbarians)
Referee: Hollie Davidson (Scotland)
Match Attendance: 12,680