Australia launched the Michael Cheika era with a victory, but failed to convince in edging past the Barbarians 40-36.
The Barbarians, captained by Scotland’s Al Kellock, cut Australia’s 18-point lead to just four points late in the second half, but were unable to snatch victory at the death.
The former Leinster coach’s first Australia challenge still ended in victory, however, as the Wallabies won out six tries to five in their bid to move past Ewen McKenzie’s acrimonious resignation.
Sam Carter, Benn Robinson, Tevita Kuridrani, Rob Horne, Bernard Foley and Sean McMahon crossed for the Australians, who struggled for rhythm throughout
Frank Halai, Adam Thomson, Francis Saili, Nick Cummins and Marnitz Boshoff claimed the scores for the Barbarians.
The Barbarians threw out all their trademark trick plays in the first ten minutes – but were unable to make any count.
After a fairly even first half, Kuridrani, who was easily the best player on the field, scored a superb solo try to hand the Wallabies a nine-point advantage early in the second half, but the Barbarians’ response was emphatic with Saili hitting back moments later before a Colin Slade penalty briefly gave them a narrow 22-21 lead.
Australia’s superior fitness began to tell with Horne, Foley and McMahon carrying them to what appeared to be an unassailable 19-point lead heading into the closing stages of the match.
But the Babarians roared back into contention and tries by Cummins and Boshoff cut the lead down to just four points with two minutes of the match remaining and though the Barbarians attacked from deep in a frenetic final passage, the Wallabies held firm to open their European tour with a victory – their first overseas in nearly a year.
They now face Tests against Wales, France, Ireland and England during November.