Penarth's Esplanade Hotel, the nearest thing rugby's favourite band of nomads ever had to a place of their own, has long disappeared, and next year Cardiff Arms Park will go the same way as the Welsh build anew for the 1999 World Cup. The old ground will take with it a vital piece of Barbarian soul, for it was there in 1973 that Gareth Edwards and company beat the All Blacks in perhaps the greatest match seen in Britain.
There was an early whiff of demolition in the air yesterday, too, as the Baa-Baas trod the hallowed turf for the final time. Wales, close to full strength and eager to atone for two heavy summer defeats in Australia, were seven points up inside three minutes.
One-way traffic? Not for long. Prompted by their wonderfully ingenious Argentinian scrum half, Agustin Pichot, and a typically muscular effort from the former All Black loose forward Arran Pene, the scratch outfit reacted to a soft opening try by Nigel Davies to rule the roost almost for the rest of the half. Pene ploughed over from close range on 24 minutes, and once the Barbarians realised that their unknown French full-back, David Arrieta, possessed more attacking vision than the entire Welsh back division combined, a half-full stadium was treated to some vintage long- range assaults.
Even though the Frenchman's opposite number, Wayne Proctor, restored some daylight for Wales on the stroke of half-time after good work from the excellent Steve Williams, who worked his socks off to shepherd two uncapped flankers through the afternoon, the home team looked sadly out of sorts.
But at least Wales tackled. For all their willing lung power, the Barbarian runners always seemed one pass away from clear blue water as the last- ditch defence came rolling in. Not even a sharp-looking Nigel Walker could thread his way through. Last-quarter tries from the captain, Jonathan Humphreys, and Nigel Daviesslammed the door shut. The only reply the Barbarians could muster was a workaday effort from the Irish flanker David Corkery on 75 minutes, but that was merely a prelude to a solo score from Rob Howley, who had been overshadowed by Pichot all game but showed the Puma a clean pair of heels at the death.
WALES: W Proctor (Llanelli); I Evans (Llanelli), L Davies (Cardiff), N Davies (Llanelli), G Thomas (Bridgend); N Jenkins (Pontypridd), R Howley (Cardiff); C Loader (Swansea), J Humphreys (Cardiff, capt), J Davies (Neath), G Llewellyn (Harlequins), D Jones (Cardiff), K Jones (Ebbw Vale), S Williams (Neath), M Williams (Pontypridd). Replacements: P Arnold (Swansea) for D Jones, 71; J Thomas (Cardiff) for N Davies, 77.
Barbarians: D Arrieta (Biarritz); A Bose (Mana), S Glas (Bourgoin-Jallieu and France), R Dourthe (Dax and France), N Walker (Cardiff and Wales); P Howard (Queensland and Australia), A Pichot (San Isidro and Argentina); A Watt (Currie and Scotland), J Hay (Hawick and Scotland), R Snow (Newfoundland Dogs and Canada), R McCall (Queensland and Australia), D Sims (Gloucester), M Gusuna (Mana), A Pene (Kaneka and New Zealand, capt), D Corkery (Bristol and Ireland). Replacement: R Collins (Pontypridd and Wales) for Gusana, 29.
Referee: J Fleming (Scotland).Reuse content