Black Saturday For Barbarians
Australia denied Victor Matfield a winning send-off from international rugby as they thumped the Barbarians 60-11 at Twickenham on Saturday.
The 34-year-old Springbok legend, captaining the Barbarians, made a late try-scoring tackle and attempted a touchline conversion in the final play of the game, which he just managed to get off the ground in a light-hearted conclusion to a remarkable career.
The famous invitational outfit were out to complete a unique hat-trick over the SANZAR nations after they had beaten the Springboks and All Blacks in their previous outings.
Australia, however, were far superior as they outscored the Barbarians by eight tries to one and could’ve scored at least three more if their accuracy had been better in the first half.
As per tradition, the BaaBaas were hampered by a lack of cohesion and were further foiled by mediocre defence and an ordinary display from England flyhalf Danny Cipriani, who was up against his Melbourne Rebels teammate James O’Connor.
All Black hooker Keven Mealamu afforded Australia the first scoring opportunity when he rushed up on defence and was caught offside inside the first two minutes.
Stand-in Wallabies captain David Pocock’s decision for O’Connor to kick at goal drew large boos from the Twickenham crowd but the young flyhalf made no mistake to put Australia on the board.
Ten minutes later, Robbie Fruean intercepted an O’Connor pass inside the BaaBaas 22 and looked set to score against the run of play.
However, the Crusaders centre ran out of gas and butchered a try when his off-load to English Rugby League star Sam Tomkins went astray.
Wallabies fullback Adam Ashley-Cooper, though, had deliberately knocked down Fruean’s pass, earning himself a yellow card and allowing Cipriani to level the scores.
With a man in the sin bin, Australia momentarily played the percentages and O’Connor edged them back in front with a wobbly drop goal that just cleared the crossbar.
From an attacking lineout moments later, Digby Ioane ran a great angle and pierced straight through the midfield pairing of former Wallabies captain Stirling Mortlock and the struggling Fruean for the opening try.
Australia were again reduced to 14 men when James Slipper was yellow-carded for a late shoulder charge on Cipriani but the Barbarians were unable to capitalise on their numerical advantage.
It was, in fact, the Wallabies who created three try-scoring opportunities during the final ten-minute period of the first half.
The first two were butchered by wayward passes from O’Connor and Rocky Elsom respectively, before Lachie Turner went over in the corner on the stroke of half time after a pointless kick by Mealamu.
Barbarians coach Graham Henry introduced all seven of his replacements at the start of the second stanza, one of which, All Black utility back Richard Kahui, copped a high tackle on his first touch of the ball which saw Cipriani double the BaaBaas’ tally.
Ten minutes into the second half Australia scored a fortuitous seven-pointer through James Horwill after Stephen Moore’s lineout throw failed to go the required five metres.
This seemed to break the resolve of the Barbarians, who lost replacement prop Salvatore Perugini to a yellow card for a professional foul where after the floodgates opened.
A shocking no-look pass by Cipriani five metres from his try line gifted a try for Rob Horne before Horwill trotted over for his second to make it 39-6 after 60 minutes.
Turner and Ioane went over for their braces in the final quarter before Tomkins scored the Barbarians’ solitary try in the right-hand corner.
SARugby.com Man of the Match: Digby Ioane.
Barbarians – Try: Sam Tomkins. Penalties: Danny Cipriani (2).
Australia – Tries: Digby Ioane (2), Lachie Turner (2), James Horwill (2), Rob Horne, Radike Samo. Conversions: James O’Connor (7). Penalty: O’Connor. Drop Goal: O’Connor.