by Michael Wicherek
WALES beat the Barbarians in an entertaining encounter in Wayne Pivac’s first game in charge.
Both sides played exciting attacking rugby throughout the match in front of a vocal crowd in the Welsh capital.
The fans were treated to 11 tries in the Principality Stadium, and with the roof’s closure it made for a great spectacle.
Warren Gatland led the visiting Barbarians in his first match since stepping down as Wales coach. He was greeted with raucous cheers every time he appeared on the big screen.
Wales opened the scoring when Josh Adams found himself in space on the left wing, going over in the corner.
The home side continued their early momentum and almost extended their lead but Justin Tipuric’s try was ruled out by the TMO.
This sparked a reaction from the visiting Barbarians. Some excellent set plays, particularly from the line-out, resulted in Scottish international Josh Strauss levelling the scores.
A try from Johnny McNicholl put Wales back in the driving seat though, as he went over in the right hand corner. The home side extended their lead with a Barbarians line-out finding Ken Owens who crossed the whitewash just before half time to make it 19-7 at the break.
Wales showed their class after the interval with two quick fire tries, Owens and Adams both adding their second tries of the game.
In the 52nd minute Barbarians captain Rory Best left the rugby field for the final time in his career. The crowd honoured the Irishman with a standing ovation and resounding cheers around the stadium.
Fly-half Curwin Bosch reduced the deficit with a superb solo try in the corner and the Barbarians added a third try. Bosch’s cross-kick found Shaun Stevenson to cut Wales’ lead to 14 points.
Any thoughts of a fight back appeared short lived. Replacement scrum-half Gareth Davies stormed over to regain some breathing space.
Craig Millar responded for the visitors as he crashed over following a fast break and the Baa Baas drew within seven points when Pete Samu rounded off a thrilling move.
Wales sealed victory with a late Halfpenny penalty, running out worthy winners.
Wales: Leigh Halfpenny; Johnny McNicholl, Owen Watkin, Hadleigh Parkes, Josh Adams; Jarrod Evans, Tomos Williams; Wyn Jones, Ken Owens, Dillon Lewis, Jake Ball, Adam Beard, Aaron Shingler, Aaron Wainwright, Justin Tipuric (capt).
Reps: Elliot Dee, Rob Evans, Leon Brown, Seb Davies, Ollie Griffiths, Gareth Davies, Sam Davies, Owen Lane.
Barbarians: Shaun Stevenson, Dillyn Leyds, Mathieu Bastareaud, Andre Esterhuizen, Cornal Hendricks, Curwin Bosch, Bryn Hall, Campese Maafu, Rory Best (capt), Wiehahn Herbst, Luke Jones, Tyler Ardron, Pete Samu, Marco van Staden, Josh Strauss.
Reps: Schalk Brits, Craig Millar, Hencus van Wyk, George Biagi, Angus Cottrell, Jano Vermaak, Billy Meakes, Matt Duffie.