Pivac begins Wales reign with win as Gatland and Best bid farewell

London (AFP) –


Wayne Pivac began his reign as Wales coach with a 43-33 victory over the Barbarians in a typically entertaining clash in the Principality Stadium in Cardiff on Saturday.

The match also marked a final farewell to the Welsh crowd of just over 60,000 for Pivac's predecessor Warren Gatland -- who took charge of the Barbarians side -- and a final bow for Irish rugby legend Rory Best.

In his 12-year tenure, the 56-year-old Gatland guided the Welsh to four Six Nations titles -- including three Grand Slams -- and two World Cup semi-finals.

"It has been incredibly special," said Gatland afterwards, who saluted the crowd. "I will be back some day, maybe sitting in the stands.

"Wales to win today for a new regime it is good and a rare time I can smile in defeat.

"We have had a few Grand Slams in our time together and it really has been pretty special," added the New Zealander, who will be reunited with some of his players when he coaches the British & Irish Lions for a third time in 2021.

The game only really sparked into life in the second-half as the Barbarians threw caution to the wind and from being 33-7 down ramped up the pressure to score 19 unanswered points.

The hosts stretched their lead once more to 40-26 only for Australian flanker Pete Samu to score a converted try.

However, with under three minutes remaining, Wales captain Justin Tipuric played the pragmatic card and told Leigh Halfpenny to go for goal and not for touch with a penalty.

The veteran fullback duly slotted it over for 43-33 and give Pivac a debut victory.

Best departed in the 52nd minute having had a final polite talking to by Welsh referee Nigel Owens over the conduct of his players.

However, seconds later, the 37-year-old, 129-time capped grizzled hooker, was shaking hands warmly with Owens as he left the pitch -- hugs and pats on the back from opponents and team-mates as well as a standing ovation.