Wales just did enough to beat Barbarian FC 30-21 at the Millennium Stadium yesterday in their final match before a tour of Australia.
It represented a likely last appearance at the Millennium for Wales greats Shane Williams, playing for the Barbarians, and Martyn Williams.
By taking the unusual — and indeed controversial — step of awarding this match full Test status, the Welsh Rugby Union paved the way for back-row forward Martyn Williams to win his 100th cap as a second-half replacement.
Teenager Harry Robinson, making his Wales debut, scored a fine try 10 minutes into the match, but the hosts failed to build on the 19-year-old wing’s effort and it needed a 20-point effort from playmaker James Hook, plus a late Aled Brew try, to see the Six Nations Grand Slam champions to victory.
Wales have not beaten the Wallabies in Australia since 1969, a record they have the chance to erase during this month’s three-Test tour.
To that end, they have already sent an advance party of 16 players Down Under with assistant coach Shaun Edwards, but a further 18 players from Saturday’s match are due to join them this week.
New Zealand Rugby World Cup-winner Stephen Donald scored two tries for the Barbarians, and fellow halfback Richie Rees also crossed, with the All Blacks hero kicking all three conversions.
For wing star Shane Williams this was, he assured fans, a definite final appearance before retirement, after he bowed out in Wales colors against Australia during a 24-18 defeat by the Wallabies in November last year.
“I’m retired from rugby, it was my last, last game — honestly,” Shane Williams told the BBC.
Martyn Williams, asked if was his farewell too, added: “Yeah, definitely — I’ll be up there watching this time next year.”
Barbarians coach John Kirwan, reflecting on the match, said: “We got off to a slow start, but then the last 60 minutes were pretty special.”
“We adjusted to the pace of the game and we fixed things that were going wrong,” the former New Zealand wing added. “There were a couple of Barbarians-style decisions not to take shots at goals, but that’s why we are here.”
“It was an outstanding performance and I am sure everyone is happy about the spectacle and the Welsh guys are happy to have had a good hit out before their tour,” said Kirwan, the former Italy and Japan coach.
The match was also notable for being Irish referee Alain Rolland’s first appearance at the Millennium since he angered Welsh fans by sending off captain Sam Warburton in Wales’ World Cup semi-final defeat by France in Auckland in October last year.