9th Play-off: Wales avenge pool loss to SA
By Daniel Welling
From Surrey Sports Park
Wales finished their Women's Rugby World Cup 2010 campaign on a high as they avenged their earlier pool defeat to South Africa with a 29-17 victory at Surrey Sports Park in the ninth place play-off.
Having lost to Denver Wannies' side 15-10 in their second Pool A match, a try from Rhian Bowden and braces from Naomi Thomas and wing Mared Evans ensured a happy ending for the Welsh.
Both sides improved on their Women's RWC 2006 campaign, with Wales having failed to qualify for the tournament in Canada and South Africa finishing 12th.
It was Jason Lewis' team who had the best of the opening stages and managed to make their pressure count as Ceri Redman made a break through the defence before offloading for Thomas to score and give them a 5-0 lead.
Both sides looked nervous in the final third for the following 30 minutes, however, as Awen Thomas of Wales and South Africa's Phumeza Gadu and Lorinda Brown came agonisingly close to scoring but just couldn't break through.
The Welsh managed to score two tries in quick succession just before half time to give them some breathing space heading into the break as Thomas ran clean through for her second and Evans out paced the opposition wingers for a 17-0 lead.
Evans carried on where she left off immediately after the restart as she burst through the line, evaded a tackle and sprinted from the half way line to score her second of the match which Awen Thomas converted.
To South Africa's credit they knew they had to score next to get back into the match and for the next ten minutes they got the upper hand and repeatedly ventured into the Welsh 22 before finally getting their reward as Zenay Jordaan scored their first points of the match.
But Wales put any hopes of a dramatic comeback to bed with good defending and control of the ball and reaped the rewards on 64 minutes. They forced a five metre lineout after dragging Cherne Roberts into touch and they duly converted with Bowden getting the vital grounding to make the score 29-5 and restore their 24-point lead.
But it was South Africa who finished the stronger as Gadu somehow managed to evade three Welsh tackles without going into touch on the left wing and after exchaning passes with Brown, capped off a superb run as she crossed over the line to make the score 29-10.
South Africa scored another brilliant try to stamp their mark on the match as Lamla Momoti received the ball on the half way line before giving Brown the chance to run through the Welsh defence and offload to Gadu who scored her second try of the match, however it was too late for the South Africans as Wales held on to a 29-17 victory.
POST MATCH REACTION
Wales captain Mellissa Berry: "We wanted to finish the tournament on a high and a good performance and to show people that we can play good rugby. It was a fantastic performance by our girls; every team if you ask them, they want to come out here and win it, you don't come here looking at ninth-12th ranking, but the situation we had after the pool stages you want to get to the best you can, so all credit to our girls for digging in and showing people we can come away with the result."
Wales coach Jason Lewis: "There's no better way to finish than with two wins, getting a bit of respect back for ourselves, the girls needed to do that. We finished with a good game of rugby, some fantastic tackling, scored some tries and showed what we are capable of."
South Africa captain Mandisa Williams: "Very disappointing for us, we were looking at coming ninth. We lost a lot of possession in the first half and two yellow cards was a killer for us. We managed to come back but it wasn't really enough.
"It (finishing ninth) would have been really big because at the last World Cup we came 12th, so for us it was going to be a big step even though it wasn't our target - our target was to be in the top six. We've learnt a lot in this World Cup, that you can play as much rugby as you can but the mind games and the physicality come into play."
South Africa coach Denver Wannies: "We were really aiming to end on a high, making sure we get three out of five games. Unfortunately it wasn't meant to be, but what do you expect when you don't get the ball in the first half, and if you don't stick to the plan. Two yellow cards killed us in that period; playing with 13 players we had 17 points scored against us and in the end that determined the result."