Much-capped Wales trio given rousing send-off in victory over Barbarians

Decorated trio Alun Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric and Leigh Halfpenny enjoyed a fitting send-off from international rugby as Wales beat the Barbarians 49-26 in Cardiff.

The Wales stars, who won 352 caps between them, took centre-stage at the Principality Stadium.

Billed as a tribute match, all three played their part, with Wales full-back Halfpenny contributing five conversions, while official player-of-the-match Jones scored a try and captained a Barbarians side that saw flanker Tipuric among his team-mates.

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.

Wales v Barbarians – Autumn International – Principality Stadium
Wales’ Leigh Halfpenny prepares to kick a conversion during the victory over the Barbarians (Joe Giddens/PA).

First-half tries by hooker Dewi Lake, wing Tom Rogers and fly-half Sam Costelow sent Wales on the way in their last game before hosting opening Six Nations opponents Scotland on February 3.

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

Fijian scrum-half Simione Kuruvoli scored two tries, and when Jones crossed early in the second period, Wales led by just two points, with Nicolas Sanchez adding a conversion double.

Replacements Taine Plumtree, Aaron Wainwright and Kieran Hardy (2) claimed second-half touchdowns for Wales, though, with Halfpenny, who received a prolonged standing ovation when he went off after 67 minutes, and Cai Evans each adding two conversions, with Barbarians flanker Tom Hooper also scoring a try, converted by Ben Donaldson.

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.

Wales v Barbarians – Autumn International – Principality Stadium
Barbarians’ Alun Wyn Jones and Justin Tipuric ahead of the meeting with Wales in Cardiff (Joe Giddens/PA).

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

Kurovoli cut the deficit, though, with his second try after 47 minutes – 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.