Leigh Halfpenny gets a fitting send-off as Wales crush Barbarians in thriller

Planet Rugby
Leigh Halfpenny in his final game for Wales.

Leigh Halfpenny in his final game for Wales.

Wales came out on top against the Barbarians in a thriller at the Principality Stadium on Saturday, winning 49-26 in Leigh Halfpenny’s farewell fixture.

Halfpenny kicked 10 points in Cardiff as the hosts’ tries came via Dewi Lake, Tom Rogers, Sam Costelow, Taine Basham, Aaron Wainwright and Kieran Hardy (2).

Despite this being Halfpenny‘s farewell match, it was Alun Wyn Jones who stole the show with a try-scoring man-of-the-match showing for the Baa-baas.

Click here for scorers

A crowd of 53,000 provided a party atmosphere under the stadium’s closed roof as Wales posted a third successive victory over the invitation side.

But the non-cap fixture – its scheduling had been criticised in many quarters with all four Welsh professional regions playing league games on the same weekend – saw the Barbarians hit back impressively.

Wales head coach Warren Gatland included 12 World Cup squad members in the starting line-up, while there was an opportunity for Dragons prop Lloyd Fairbrother with five tightheads unavailable, including Tomas Francis, Dillon Lewis and Henry Thomas.

The Barbarians, coached by Scott Robertson and Eddie Jones, featured a host of players fresh from World Cup duty, headlined by Australian trio Taniela Tupou, Rob Leota and Rob Valetini.

It was the invitation team’s first Cardiff visit for four years, but they fell behind inside three minutes when Wales shredded their defence.

Costelow’s brilliant reverse pass to centre George North caused the damage before supporting hooker Lake crashed over and Halfpenny converted.

Italian referee Andrea Piardi was quick to punish both teams’ indiscipline, and after Wales lock Adam Beard was yellow-carded for a technical offence, Wales conceded a try within 60 seconds of his departure.

The Barbarians applied pressure inside Wales’ 22, and Simione Kurovoli threw a dummy pass that Wales’ defence bought as he touched down.

Halfpenny and Wales prop Corey Domachowski both required treatment for knocks suffered during a lively opening quarter, and Wales went close to a second try when North led a break-out, but wing Rio Dyer’s chip and chase was scrambled to safety.

Wales continued to press, though, and they pounced 10 minutes before half-time courtesy of North’s audacious pass through his legs that an unmarked Rogers gratefully collected, and Halfpenny’s conversion made it 14-5.

Dyer and North were heavily involved in Wales’ attacking game, but their third try came following clever work from scrum-half Tomos Williams.

His inch-perfect kick over the top of the Barbarians’ defence was gathered by Costelow, whose try was converted by Halfpenny and opened up a 21-5 interval advantage.

Costelow, who took a blow to his shoulder just before half-time, was replaced by Cai Evans as Wales looked to capitalise from a healthy lead.

Kurovoli cut the deficit, though, with his second try after 47 minutes – Nicolas Sanchez converted – and when Jones touched down to rapturous applause shortly afterwards, the Barbarians were firmly back in contention.

But Plumtree’s score, again converted by Halfpenny, calmed Welsh nerves, and after Barbarians replacement Asafo Aumua was yellow-carded, Wainwright claimed a fifth try, with Halfpenny adding the conversion before a flurry of late scoring.

The teams

Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Tom Rogers, 13 George North, 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Rio Dyer, 10 Sam Costelow, 9 Tomos Williams, 8 Aaron Wainwright, 7 Jac Morgan, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Adam Beard, 4 Ben Carter, 3 Lloyd Fairbrother, 2 Dewi Lake, 1 Corey Domachowski
Replacements: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Harri O’Connor, 19 Teddy Williams, 20 Taine Plumtree, 21 Kieran Hardy, 22 Cai Evans, 23 Mason Grady

Barbarians: 15 Ilaisa Droasese, 14 Shaun Stevenson, 13 Len Ikitau, 12 Izaia Perese, 11 Selestino Ravutaumada, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Simione Kuruvoli, 8 Rob Valetini, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Justin Tipuric, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 4 Rob Leota, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Tevita Ikanivere, 1 Joe Moody
Replacements: 16 Asafo Aumua, 17 Angus Bell, 18 Peni Ravai, 19 Aaron Shingler, 20 Tom Hooper, 21 Lautaro Bazan Velez, 22 Ben Donaldson, 23 Andrew Kellaway

Referee: Andrea Piardi (Italy)
Assistant Referees: Gianluca Gnecchi (Italy), Craig Evans (Wales)

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