Wales 30 Barbarians 21: Two great Dragons give their final roar as Robinson points the way forward
15:49 GMT, 2 June 2012
Wales greats Shane Williams and
Martyn Williams bowed out of rugby at the Millennium Stadium – but their
thunder was stolen by a teenage Test debutant.
Harry Robinson proved the shining
light of an inconsistent Wales display, scoring a blistering try after
just 10 minutes that had Shane Williams' renowned finishing prowess
stamped all over it.
Wales, though, struggled to build on
the 19-year-old wing's dazzling effort and they only prevailed courtesy
of centre James Hook's 20-point haul from a try, three penalties and
three conversions, plus Aled Brew's late effort.
Old master: Martyn Williams leaves the field after winning his 100th cap for Wales
Half-backs Stephen Donald (two) and Richie Rees touched down for the Barbarians, with Bath number 10 Donald slotting all three conversions. Even though the game did not grip a bumper crowd of 57,000, they still had chance to bid wing Williams and flanker Williams farewell.
The pair – who boast 187 caps between them – had few chances to shine on their final Test outings as Shane retired in Baa-baas colours and Martyn went on early in the second period for his 100th Wales appearance before ending the game as Wales captain.
It was an emotional and nostalgic farewell for both players, but Wales must look at the bigger picture, and a scrappy showing was not what they wanted just seven days before tackling Australia in Brisbane.
Last hurrah: Shane Williams, in Barbarians colours for the day, took his bow at the Millennium Stadium
An advance party of 16 players, featuring most of their Test regulars, are already Down Under preparing with assistant coach Shaun Edwards, but a further 18 players involved today will join them early next week.
Robinson, full-back Liam Williams and prop Rhodri Jones all made their Wales bows, yet caretaker coach Rob Howley was left with more questions than answers as he ponders his final tour squad make-up.
Williams led the Baa-baas out to a standing ovation, but he immediately found himself in defensive mode as Wales went through several attacking phases that ended with Hook booting a penalty.
It was a promising start by the reigning RBS 6 Nations champions, and they extended their lead after 10 minutes when flanker Justin Tipuric snaffled turnover ball and Robinson sprinted over from 60 metres.
One for the future: Harry Robinson celebrates his opening try for Wales
Hook slotted the touchline conversion, and a 10-point lead was deserved reward for Wales' admirable sense of adventure as they looked to maintain a high tempo.
A second Hook penalty extended the advantage to 13 points, but the Barbarians replied just when it looked as if things were getting away from them.
Shane Williams was used cleverly as a decoy runner, and a slick move ended with lock Mick O'Driscoll sending Donald across for a try that the New Zealand World Cup winner converted.
The score gave Donald and company confidence to start attacking Wales, and the home side briefly lost their way after referee Alain Rolland sin-binned prop Rhys Gill.
Through the gap: Mark Chisholm is tackled by James Hook and Rhys Gill (left) of Wales
It was Irish official Rolland's first
Millennium Stadium appearance since he sent off Wales skipper Sam
Warburton during the World Cup semi-final defeat against France in
Auckland last October, and once again he did not endear himself to Welsh
Star man: James Hook kept the points ticking over for Wales
The Baa-baas almost scored immediately following Gill's departure, but television match official Nigel Whitehouse ruled against number eight John Beattie, and then flanker Mamuka Gorgodze also went close.
Wales found themselves under sustained pressure after Gill departed, and they conceded a second try three minutes before half-time when Rees reacted quicker than his opposite number Lloyd Williams.
Donald again added the extras, and Wales trooped off 14-13 adrift, wondering how a comfortable lead could have evaporated so quickly. Martyn Williams arrived to a rapturous reception six minutes into the second period as he became the third Welsh cap centurion after Gareth Thomas and Stephen Jones.
And Wales regained the advantage soon
afterwards when Hook completed his penalty hat-trick before further
reinforcements arrived in scrum-half Rhys Webb and flanker Aaron
There was no
obvious pattern to the game, and its disjointed appearance suited the
Barbarians as Wales lacked much of their early structure and cohesion.
scored his second try midway through the half, and Wales knew they
needed to rouse themselves or face the prospect of a second successive
defeat against their invitational opponents.
But Hook and Brew then came up trumps during the closing minutes as World Cup semi-finalists and reigning European champions Wales made it six wins from six in 2012.