The 39-times capped flanker, who celebrates her 26th birthday this month, hadn’t played since damaging her knee in the opening game of the World Cup in New Zealand last October.
But she re-appeared at the perfect time for Dave Ward’s Bears side as she helped them to clinch a play-off place with a seven try, 41-22 win over Wasps. That was enough to set-up a semi-final clash with arch-rivals Gloucester-Hartpury at Kingsholm on Saturday, 10 June for a place in the final.
Butchers, who was named Wales Women Player of the Year in 2022, underwent surgery on her ACL after getting injured in the opening game against Scotland at the World Cup. She scored a try in the 18-15 win that ultimately led Wales into the knock-out stages.
She missed the whole of this year’s Six Nations campaign, but it now back to not only help her club, but also prepare for Wales’ next trip to New Zealand later in the year for the new top-tier World Rugby tournament.
“It’s great to be back and I’m so thankful to all the physios and medics who have supported me through my injury and rehab,” said Butchers.
“This is the business end of the season and I’m so excited to be a part of it. It was great being able to play against Wasps in what was their last game at this level.
“They were outstanding and really upped their level of performance. Next week we’ll need to tighten up our game around the ruck area so we don’t give Gloucester as much time on the ball.”
England hooker Lark Davies helped herself to a hat-trick of tries for the Bears within 15 minutes of coming onto the field after watching her side trail 17-10 at one stage in the first-half. Butchers was joined in the Bears pack by fellow Welsh international Bryonie King and Gwenllian Pyrs.
While the Bears were bagging the points they needed to stave off any threat from Harlequins for the fourth and final play-off place, top of the table Gloucester-Hartpury were caught between a rock and a hard place in their final fixture.
They had already secured first place, had a home semi-final in the bag and had only been beaten once during the season. Sean Lynn, their Welsh head coach, took the decision to rest a number of his players against second placed Exeter Chiefs and saw the visitors run out winners by 58-19.
The Chiefs will now host reigning champions Saracens in the second semi-final on Sunday boosted by having scored eight tries at the Alpas Arena. Having already won the Premiership Cup in 2022 and 2023, they will be hoping to go one better than last season when they ended as runners-up to Sarries in the Premier15s final.
Wales wing Lisa Neumann and front row powerhouse Sisi Tuipulotu scored tries for Gloucester-Hartpury, with Neumann’s effort showcasing her pace and power.
— Gloucester-Hartpury (@Glos_PuryWRFC) June 4, 2023
Reigning champions Saracens ran out 33-21 winners at Loughborough Lightning, while Sale Sharks triumphed 34-5 at DMP Sharks. In the other game, Worcester Warriors held Harlequins to a 33-33 draw.