By Kasey Rees
No more Warrenball . . . fans got a glimpse of what’s to come under new Wales boss Wayne Pivac as he earned his first victory in his opening game in charge.
The Pivac era started with a fantastic game of rugby, with plenty of entertainment throughout in Wales’ 43-33 win over the Barbarians.
Wales started the match with flair and passion, playing with ball in hand and plenty of attacking rugby. They were first on the scoresheet as World Cup hero and new Cardiff Blues wing Josh Adams scored the opening try of the game, before going on to score another in the second-half.
Justin Tipuric did a fantastic job leading the side in Alun Wyn Jones’ absence, as he helped see off the Barbarians with his side scoring six tries.
Uncapped Scarlets winger Johnny McNicholl scored on his international debut, followed by a Ken Owens double and one from Gareth Davies.
Wales picked up where they left off in the second half, keeping their foot on the gas and showing exciting promise going into the Pivac era.
Pivac said: “The game was fantastic, we put some building blocks and its been a chance to meet the group. We were pleased to score 43 points and I was happy with the performance and it’s something to get our teeth into.
“It was disappointed to concede some tries but I am pleased we got the win. But the first thing we will do is review the game. But overall it has been a valuable week as there was a lot of good work. Scoring those 43 points was a sign of what we want to do.
“We need to tighten up on our defence but it’s promising. We are pleased with the win and can now focus on the Six Nations.”
Wales showed promise ahead of their Six Nations opening match against Italy on February 1.
The visitors came close to victory as Josh Strauss, Curwin Bosche, Shaun Stevenson, Craig Millar and Pete Samu all crossed the line. But with three minutes left on the clock it was Leigh Halfpenny who sealed his side’s 43-33 victory with the first penalty of the afternoon, adding to his tally of five out of six converted tries.
Despite losing against his former side, the loudest roar of the afternoon was when Warren Gatland appeared on the big screen as fans said farewell to him after his 12-year reign with Wales ended after this year’s World Cup.
Gatland said: “It was a brilliant, a great chance to say goodbye and I have had some closure this week which I loved.
“But today I have enjoyed the occasion and I wanted to thank the Welsh fans as they have been a special part of the last 12 years.
“It was great for Wales to get the win under the new regime, they’ll have learned a lot. They went out to be positive and they’ll take things from that. The competitive edge in me wanted to win but we couldn’t do that, but it was a great game of rugby.
“Wales played with the right intent, I enjoyed the last 15 minutes and I hope they do well in the Six Nations.”
Wales: Leigh Halfpenny, Johnny McNicholl, Owen Watkin, Hadleigh Parkes, Josh Adams Jarrod Evans, Tomas Williams, Wyn Jones, Ken Owens, Dillon Lewis, Jake Ball, Adam Beard, Aaron Shingler, Justin Tipuric © Aaron Wainwright.
Replacements: 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 ©, Wiehahn Herbst, Luke Jones, Tyler Ardron, Pete Samu, Marco van Staden, Josh Strauss.
Replacements: Schalk Brits, Craig Millar, Hencus van Wyk, George Biagi, Angus Cottrell, Jano Vermaak, Billy Meakes, Matt Duffie.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Man of the Match: Wyn Jones (Wales)