Wayne Pivac’s tenure as Wales head coach got off to a fine start with an enthralling victory over his predecessor Warren Gatland and the Barbarians.
As part of an historic double header in the Welsh capital, Pivac’s troops claimed a 43-33 victory and revenge for the women’s defeat earlier in the day.
Josh Adams and Ken Owens both went over twice for the hosts, who also got tries from debutant Johnny McNicholl and replacement Gareth Davies.
But on a day when the likes of Rory Best, Schalk Brits and of course Gatland were saying farewell to Wales, the Baa Baas played their part.
Josh Strauss went over in the first half for the invitational side and then in the second half they came roaring back as Curwin Bosch, Shaun Stevenson, Craig Millar and Pete Samu all went over.
But Pivac’s side had built enough of a lead, allied to the unerring boot of Leigh Halfpenny, and secured a dramatic win.
It was an all-action start to proceedings at Principality, but after the breathless opening Wales settled quicker.
And their first try was not long in coming, Adams picking up where he left off in Japan to burst clear down left after Jarrod Evans’ initial break.
Halfpenny drilled the extras, while his Scarlets teammate McNicholl looked to the manor born in international rugby with some lovely touches.
— Welsh Rugby Union 🏉 (@WelshRugbyUnion) November 30, 2019
The TMO denied Justin Tipuric, captain for the day, a score after No.8 today Aaron Wainwright caused carnage.
But the BaaBaas response was impressive, Strauss showing good strength and awareness to stretch out and dot down.
But Wales were undoubtedly the better side and their second try was well deserved when, from a scrum, Tomos Williams and Evans put McNicholl into the right corner.
That conversion came back off the post from Halfpenny but Wales had a third try on the interval regardless.
Owens was initially denied from a rolling maul by Rory Best forcing him into touch, but the BaaBaas hooker then overthrew the subsequent lineout and Owens was on hand to make amends in simple fashion.
The BaasBaas needed a response at the start of the second period to stay in touch, but it was Wales who kicked on.
Owens grabbed a second, at the end of a fine team move prompted by the impressive Evans at No.10 when Aaron Shingler put the hooker over in the right corner.
And the tries kept coming for Pivac’s side, this time Adams on hand after fine work from Wyn Jones and Tomos Williams to make the initial line break.
“This man knows the way to the try-line”@JoshAdams951 continues where he left off at the RWC as he scores the first try of the Wayne Pivac era
— Channel 4 Sport (@C4Sport) November 30, 2019
Halfpenny banged over both conversions and Wales led 33-7 as Pivac turned to his bench well inside the hour mark.
Best also departed for the final time, to a rapturous reception from the Cardiff crowd.
That brought another departing hero Schalk Brits onto the stage and the hooker was everywhere in the final quarter.
BaaBaas hit back first when Bosch carved through a huge hole to go over and then the fly half made one for Stevenson, his cross kick bouncing up for the full-back as Leigh Halfpenny and Dillyn Leyds tangled.
Replacement scrum-half Davies wriggled over for Wales’ sixth as the game really opened up, but still the BaaBaas kept coming.
Millar charged under the posts before Brits produced a superb offload back inside for Samu to go over, Bosch’s conversion making it a one-score game at 40-33.
Halfpenny’s late penalty put the result beyond doubt, and the game ended as it had begun with end to end rugby and a fitting celebration.
The Baas had stayed in the fight for most of the first half.
But Wales’ third try before the interval gave them a big lead they would never relinquish, and it could so easily have been avoided.
Best had done so well to prevent Owens going over from a driving maul moments earlier but then missed his jumper and gave his direct opponent the easiest of chances to make immediate amends.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH
Wyn Jones was one of the stand-out stars for Wales on a fine first outing of the new Pivac era.
As Shane Williams on commentary said, the prop covered every blade of grass and beat double try scorers Owens and Adams to the man of the match award.
The prop said afterwards: “There is plenty to work on, we have some new moves and patterns, but we are pretty happy with today.”