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Last Of The Summer Wine For Alun Wyn As Fans Drink It All In At St. Helen’s

By Paul Jones

There was standing room only around much of the grand old setting of St. Helen’s as Alun Wyn Jones sipped what most consider are the last drops of his summer wine.

The 37-year-old is certainly in the deep winter of a career that has spanned 20 years, but there was only the joy of a bright sunny evening in Swansea as the Whites brought down the curtain on their 150th anniversary celebrations.

They did it in spectacular style as they hosted the Barbarians for the first time in almost 30 years.

An amazing crowd of 6,238 turned out in sweltering conditions to watch Jones’ return to the ground where he made his Swansea debut in 2004 against Carmarthen Quins – and play for both teams.

Having led out the Baa-Baas for the first half, he donned the white shirt of Swansea for the start of the second in a game in which everyone was a winner, despite the Baa-Baas running out victors 68-33.

It was that sort of night as former Cardiff Blues head coach John Mulvihill and his Barbarian all-stars brought the circus to town for an evening of thrills, spills and plenty of tries.

There were 15 tries and 101 points, although nobody was really counting.

At the end of one of the longest seasons in the history of Welsh it was a reminder of just how much fun you can have on a rugby field as both teams entered into the carnival spirit to send every fan home smiling.

While it was a special night for home hero Jones, it was also a great way to end the 66-cap career for his former Wales and Ospreys second row Bradley Davies.

Before he left the field, he managed to put his old sparring partner to shame by kicking a conversion in the second half – bettering the two failures by AWJ in the Baa-Baas win over the World XV at Twickenham last weekend.

It was 35-14 to the invitation side, who made their last visit to St Helen’s in 1994 having debuted in 1901, but the best try of the half came from home centre Joe Thomas midway through.

To their credit, Swansea provided stiff opposition throughout and scored five of the tries on a special night.

Jones has yet to declare whether or not he will play on next season, but at 37, if this was his farewell then he could have hardly hoped for a more fitting script.

He played the first half in Baa-Baas’ black and white, before leading Swansea out for the second period in the All Whites’ 150th anniversary year.

Jones, wearing the black and red socks of Bonymaen Rugby Club – his youth rugby team – oversaw an impressive opening as the Barbarians ran in converted tries from Olly Robinson, Steve Shingler and Taichi Takahashi.

Jones was joined in the Barbarians team by the likes of Wales flanker Dan Lydiate and former England centre Billy Twelvetrees.

Davies, who kicked that second-half conversion, even had time to punch the air before binding down for a scrum when it was announced that the outdoor bars would remain open until 10pm!

Acknowledging Jones’ achievements ahead of kick-off, Barbarians coach Mulvihill said: “It was really nice to spend a few hours with him Tuesday and really get to know him.

“We have spoken to each other a number of times, but to sit down and have a coffee and a beer it was really nice to see what he has done and what rugby means to him. It is awesome.

“He has done everything in the game for Wales and the British and Irish Lions. Seventeen years as a professional Test player.”

The Barbarians first visited St Helen’s in 1901, with their Easter tour becoming a popular part of the rugby calendar as they also took on Penarth, Cardiff and Newport between Good Friday and the day after Easter Monday.

But they had not played Swansea since 1994, giving added impetus to what was a true festival occasion as Jones received fitting acclaim and finished the game back as the Baa-Baas’ number five as his team scored 10 tries.

Scorers: Swansea: Tries: Joe Thomas, Hanno Dirksen, Brandon Wood, Matthew Aubrey, Willis Wood; Cons: James Davies 2, Matthew Aubrey, Willis Wood.
Barbarians: Tries: Ollie Robinson, Steve Shingler (2), Taichi Takahashi, Tom Howe (2), Damien Hoyland, Rey Lee Lo, Kirby Myhill 2; Cons: Cons: Steve Shingler 5, Billy Searle 2, Bradley Davies, Elvis Taione

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