Wales held on for an entertaining 43-33 win over the Barbarians in the final ‘international’ of the year.
The Welsh outscored the BaaBaas by six tries to five in Cardiff in a game where defence was not always at a premium, but conviviality and gaiety was in abundance.
It allowed Wayne Pivac to began his reign as Wales coach with a victory.
The match also marked a final farewell to the Welsh crowd of just over 60,000 for Pivac’s predecessor Warren Gatland – who took charge of the Barbarians side – and a final bow for Irish rugby legend Rory Best.
In his 12-year tenure, the 56-year-old Gatland guided the Welsh to four Six Nations titles – including three Grand Slams – and two World Cup semi-finals.
“It has been incredibly special,” said Gatland afterwards, who saluted the crowd.
“I will be back some day, maybe sitting in the stands.
“For Wales to win for a new regime it is good and a rare time I can smile in defeat.
“We have had a few Grand Slams in our time together and it really has been pretty special,” added the New Zealander, who will be reunited with some of his players when he coaches the British & Irish Lions for a third time in 2021.
The game only really sparked into life in the second-half as the Barbarians threw caution to the wind and from being 33-7 down ramped up the pressure to score 19 unanswered points.
The hosts stretched their lead once more to 40-26 only for Australian flank Pete Samu to score a converted try.
However, with under three minutes remaining, Wales captain Justin Tipuric played the pragmatic card and told Leigh Halfpenny to go for goal and not for touch with a penalty.
The veteran fullback duly slotted it over for 43-33 and give Pivac a debut victory.
Best departed in the 52nd minute having had a final polite talking to by Welsh referee Nigel Owens over the conduct of his players.
However, seconds later, the 37-year-old, 129-time capped grizzled hooker, was shaking hands warmly with Owens as he left the pitch – hugs and pats on the back from opponents and team-mates as well as a standing ovation.
Tries: Adams 2, McNicholl, Owens 2, G Davies
Cons: Halfpenny 5
For the Barbarians:
Tries: Strauss, Bosch, Stevenson, Millar, Samu
Cons: Bosch 4
Yellow card: Marco van Staden (Barbarians, 38 – cynical foul, slowing ball down at the breakdown)
Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 Owen Watkin, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Jarrod Evans, 9 Tomos Williams, 8 Aaron Wainwright, 7 Justin Tipuric (captain), 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Adam Beard, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Dillon Lewis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Wyn Jones.
Replacements: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Rob Evans, 18 Leon Brown, 19 Seb Davies, 20 Ollie Griffiths, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Sam Davies, 23 Owen Lane.
Barbarians: 15 Shaun Stevenson, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Cornal Hendricks, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Josh Strauss, 7 Marco van Staden, 6 Pete Samu, 5 Tyler Ardon, 4 Luke Jones, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Rory Best (captain), 1 Campese Ma’afu.
Replacements: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Craig Millar, 18 Hencus van Wyk, 19 George Biagi, 20 Angus Cottrell, 21 Jano Vermaak, 22 Billy Meakes, 23 Matt Duffie.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Dan Jones (Wales), Gwyn Morris (Wales)
TMO: Ian Davies (Wales)