Barbarians and England in 13-try Twickenham thriller


England came out on top 51-43 in another entertaining Twickenham clash with the Barbarians to end the 2018/19 season in style.

From the off the Baa-baas showcased the same game plan as 2018, shifting the point of attack to try and disrupt the England defensive patterns, even pulling out an NFL trick play at a tapped penalty.

But England had also come to play, and within the opening couple of minutes had put the ball through the hands with long passes and offloads to match.

They were rewarded when Josh Bassett went over in the corner after a midfield fumble, but if anything this mistake inspired the Barbarians to up their commitment to keep the ball alive, an approach which brought a try four minutes later.

James Horwill

James Horwill struck with the opening try for the Barbarians

Taqele Nayaravoro and Filipo Nakosi made mincemeat of England’s defence and when the ball came back to Colin Slade the fly half’s kick found James Horwill unmarked on the left touchline for the try.

Marcus Smith extended England’s lead with a penalty, but this was quickly wiped out by Francois Louw, who burrowed over after a clever lineout move, Slade putting the Barbarians in front for the first time with the conversion.

Then it was England’s turn with a score their opponents would have been proud of. Joe Marchant showed footwork more akin to a top-scoring Strictly jive to work himself into space, Alex Mitchell turned on the afterburners and a couple of nifty offloads later Simon Hammersley was over the whitewash.

Smith darted over to extend the lead five minutes later, and things went even better for England when Mitchell put Alex Dombrandt over after intercepting a Rhys Webb pass from a lineout.

Trailing by 19 points at the break the Barbarians needed to come out firing. The intent and ambition was there so was the England defence, Johnny Williams the second beneficiary of an interception inside the space of eight playing minutes.

If anything the Barbarians were trying too hard to live up to their reputation with a few forced offloads, but when they stayed patient they got their rewards with four quickfire tries in 16 minutes which brought them back to within a score.

First over was Mark Atkinson, put over by Charles Piatau and John Afoa. Then from the kick off they ran the ball again, Nakosi involved twice in the 80-metre play which put Rhodri Williams over with his first touch of the ball.

Smith’s penalty took England past 40, but Piatau quickly took play upfield to set up Atkinson’s second, Nayaravoro giving the scoring offload. Then it was the forwards’ turn, driving David Heffernan over from a lineout.

But the 26 points were not enough as Smith kicked a penalty and Dombrandt went over from his second from close range that sealed the win for England, even while there was still time for a final trademark flourish from Nayaravoro which brought the final whistle.

England: Hammersley (Sheedy 76); O’Conor, Marchant, Williams (Loader 66), Bassett; Smith, Mitchell (White 58); Harrison (Obano 57), Dunn (Taylor 62), Painter (Hill 52), Stooke (Spencer 68), Beaumont (capt), Dombrandt, Curry, Harrison (Ellis 58)

Barbarians: Piutau; Nakosi (Adeolokun 60), Fekitoa, Atkinson (James 66), Nayaravoro; Slade, Webb (Williams 56); Marler (Schoeman 49), Hibbard (Heffernan 49), Afoa (Bealham 62), Horwill (capt), Vui, Luatua, Louw (Isa 58), Mata (Messam 53)