Wales welcomed fans back to the Principality Stadium in style as their launched their summer international series with a 68-12 victory over Canada.
The Guinness Six Nations champions ran in 10 tries, although victory came at a cost after full-back Leigh Halfpenny’s 100th Test for Wales and the British and Irish Lions lasted just two minutes before he was carried off injured.
Halfpenny suffered a suspected knee ligament problem, being hurt when he appeared to slip after going into a challenge on the halfway line.
Ongoing restrictions meant the capacity was set at 8,200, and 6,164 spectators were a welcome sight for head coach Wayne Pivac and his players as Wales returned to action following their Six Nations title triumph 14 weeks ago.
It was a first home crowd since February last year, and Wales delivered as they took charge through first-half tries from Tomos Williams, Jonah Holmes, Nicky Smith, Elliot Dee, James Botham and Will Rowlands.
Williams added his second try early in the second half, and there was also a double for Taine Basham in his first Test and Holmes also claimed a brace, while fly-half Callum Sheedy kicked seven conversions and Ben Thomas added the extras following second scores for Basham and Holmes.
FT: WAL 68-12 CAN
A good day out in @principalitysta with plenty of tries, debuts and singing 🎶
Good luck with the rest of the campaign, @RugbyCanada 🇨🇦
Braf cael cynulleidfa nôl yma yng Nghaerdydd!
🏴 #HWFN pic.twitter.com/2vTTeK7xPw
— Welsh Rugby Union 🏉 (@WelshRugbyUnion) July 3, 2021
Canada, who face England at Twickenham next weekend, went ahead through wing Kainoa Lloyd’s early try, but their first Test since the 2019 World Cup ended in a hefty defeat.
Full-back Cooper Coats claimed a late consolation touchdown, converted by fly-half Peter Nelson, yet it proved a frustrating afternoon for Canada’s Welsh coaching trio of Kingsley Jones, Rob Howley and Byron Hayward.
Pivac, minus a sizeable British and Irish Lions contingent, handed Test debuts to Scarlets wing Tom Rogers and Dragons lock Ben Carter in a team captained by centre Jonathan Davies.
Wales were clearly rocked by Halfpenny’s exit, and as they regrouped after Saracens’ Nick Tompkins replaced him – Holmes moved to full-back, with Tompkins on the wing – Canada struck through a fifth-minute try.
Slick passing by the backs ended with Coats sending Lloyd over wide out, but Wales responded impressively after an initial Sheedy break put Rowlands clear in space.
Quickly recycled possession then highlighted huge gaps in Canada’s defence, and Williams darted over from close range, with Sheedy converting for a two-point lead.
Wales looked to increase the tempo, and a sharp Tompkins break allowed the supporting Davies to threaten Canada’s line before he gifted an unmarked Botham his first Test try.
Canada were struggling to cope with Wales’ pace and precision, and Holmes ended the opening quarter by pouncing for a third try, with Sheedy’s conversion making it 19-5.
The Canadians’ early promise had evaporated, and Wales moved past 30 points through tries in quick succession from front-row forwards Smith and Dee.
Sheedy added both conversions, and Canada were in damage-limitation mode approaching half-time as Rowlands pounced for Wales’ sixth touchdown of a one-sided contest.
Sheedy’s conversion made it 40-5 at the interval, and Pivac knew he could start ringing the changes ahead of next Saturday’s appointment with Argentina.
He sent on two debutants – Basham and Ospreys prop Gareth Thomas – after Williams’ second try, and it took Dragons back-row forward Basham just seven minutes to make his mark as he breached Canada’s defence to score.
Canada managed to avoid further damage until Holmes struck, and it was a case of job done for Wales who next meet the Pumas on successive weekends in Cardiff.