Four tries for Joyce on spectacular Barbarians debut

Valkyries’ Wales international wing Jasmine Joyce wrote her name in the Barbarians history books with four tries on her debut against the USA in Denver.

And England could be next in the firing line for the full-back whose finishing enabled the Baa-baas women’s team to snatch a 34-33 win on their first outing against an international side.

Joyce’s Wales and Valkyries teammate Alisha Butchers also got on the scoresheet with Wales fly half Elinor Snowsill (Bristol Bears) pulling the USA defence apart while Ireland wing Alison Miller supplied the other Barbarians try.

They were backed up by outstanding veterans like England’s 137-cap prop Rocky Clark and New Zealand’s treble World Cup winner Linda Itunu, who captained the side from No.8.

That experience enabled them to keep their cool when the USA rallied in the final quarter with captain Cate Zackary scoring to put them in front with three minutes remaining. The Baa-baas duly recovered the ball from the kick-off and moved it wide where Butchers’s elevated assist put Joyce in the clear.

“It’s pretty awesome to get four tries and playing in that position at full back was pretty special,” said Joyce.

“To get the last one, it was a team performance and all I had to do was run. Playing with such world class players was easy for me. I just run and put the ball down.”

She insisted going behind — the Baa-baas had been 29-12 up at half-time — with time running out didn’t frighten her teammates.

“We had a game in the Six Nations where the exact same thing happened,” she said. “There were about three minutes to go, they scored and one of the Welsh girls came on and said ‘look, it takes 30 seconds to score a try and we’ve got three whole minutes’ and we did it.

“It was an awesome take by Carmen (Farmer) in the air to receive the ball, the forwards set a platform to swing it wide and I just had to run a bit and put the ball down.

“Next for me now is to go back to Wales, play some Sevens and hopefully qualify for the World Series qualifiers and just go from there. Playing England in June? I hope so, I just have to wait and see what the Welsh say but I hope so. I’d love to be playing.”

Captain Itunu carried powerfully throughout and insisted her side were inspired by joining rugby’s iconic invitation team.

The Barbarians last visit to the USA was in 1976 when the likes of Phil Bennett, JJ Williams and Andy Irvine were in the team.

“The talk for the last three minutes was just to stay in the fight, there’s still time,” said Itunu.

“It was just to keep things basic, to earn the right to go wide and let the backs express themselves. Carmen’s such an athlete and all credit to her for the kick-off steal.

“We got to watch a video before we came here with ex-Barbarians talking about what it meant for them to play in the jersey and that inspired and motivated ourselves to get out there.

“The history and who’s played in the shirt is something the girls don’t take lightly, they know who’s gone before them and that’s the power of this jersey.”

Head coach Anna Richards, who will be in charge again at Twickenham on June 2, identified more performances to savour — as well as commiserating with Bristol’s Amelia Buckland-Hurry, who pulled out after injuring an ankle in the warm-up.

“It was a bit of a dog fight in the second half and I thought America did great, kept the ball alive and scored some great tries,” said Richards.

“I never had a worry, I always thought the girls would come back. Thirty seconds is a long time and I’m proud of their effort, their attitude and I think they did the Barbarians proud.

“Alisha [Butchers], we weren’t expecting to play the whole game, but look at her two great passes and a try and she nearly had a second. Helen Nelson, who played at 12 and usually plays at 10, was amazing. There’s not much to say about Joyce! The insides gave her the room to show the magic she can create.

“Carmen Farmer played a huge game. She got their ball back from the kick-off that led to the last try, she made some great tackles. She was a stand-out.

“For me, just to be involved with the quality of the players we were able to get for the Baa-baas has made it a real privilege and a pleasure this week. And fun. I told the girls, ‘no matter what happens just get out there, smile and enjoy it, look after each other’.

“I’m really gutted for Amelia but I said to her that she was amazing this week, she was so keen to learn and her time will come. You’ll get a chance, just go away and work hard and you’ll be back.”

The Barbarians fielded two former USA players in Farmer and replacement fly half Hannah Stolba.

“It was fun — the most fun I’ve had on a rugby pitch in a long time. I’m just as happy as can be,” said Farmer.

“First I was a little ‘these are my girls’ but once we kick off they’re faceless. It doesn’t matter. I’m playing for the Barbarians and that’s an honour, you don’t get to do it every day. I put everything I had into being a Barbarian and I’m proud now to have been a Barbarian.

“The whole week’s been fantastic. When else do you get to play with girls from nine other countries who have won World Cups and done the most amazing things you can in world rugby? I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”