Fireworks at Welford Road


Report by Simon Mills

THE Barbarians first contest against Leicester Tigers since 2006 resulted in another richly entertaining performance with 13 tries shared between the sides in front of an 11,000 strong crowd at Welford Road.
The 87th meeting between the sides since 1909 carried more than a nod to the past, with Leicester wearing letters rather than numbers on their backs and both sides committed to running from deep.
The Tigers clawed their way back after after conceding three early tries but were eventually overwhelmed by six high quality second-half scores from the visitors as Barbarians coach John Kirwan deployed 17 international players.
The Barbarians were without fly half Colin Slade and hooker James Parsons, both called into the touring New Zealand squad, following their 40-36 defeat against Australia at Twickenham.
But they were still packed with high class attacking players who created and finished their opportunities eagerly, as well as producing trick plays which included inventive penalty moves and hoisting diminutive scrum half Fumi Tanaka up as a lineout target.
Leicester centre Christian Loamanu scored on his delayed first appearance after a summer move from Treviso and there were also tries for forgotten England fly half Freddie Burns and forwards Jamie Gibson and Paul Grant.
The Barbarians shared nine tries in all, two from Stormers centre Juan de Jongh and the rest from prop Thomas du Toit, Francis Saili, Heinrich Brussow, Tom English, Michael Rhodes and Tevita Li. 
The final try and conversion went to Sharks No.8 Jacques Botes, making his final career appearance at the age of 33. He was engulfed by happy teammates after adding the conversion.
Leicester Head Coach Richard Cockerill had no complaints. “We’ve got lots of young lads that haven’t played against that quality of player before,” he said. “I thought it was a great occasion, a great game and I enjoyed watching them play and the skill sets they have.”
And Kirwan was delighted that his side had produced another enchanting performance in the best traditions of the club after assembling a cosmopolitan squad from eight different countries.
“We have got to preserve things like this in our game - the after match functions and the weeks like this where you can play and express yourself with no pressure,” he said.
Despite making nine changes from the side that face the Wallabies three days earlier, the Barbarians raced into a 21-0 lead inside 12 minutes with Stormers centre de Jongh, Sharks prop Du Toit and Blues centre Saili all touching down.
Leicester were more direct but Burns - deployed at full back in this game - got them on the board with a break and dummy under the posts, Gibson galloped over from 20 metres and Loamanu smashed his way over just before the break. 
The Barbarians’ second half finishing was in a different class, though, with World Cup winner Adam Thomson an outstanding contributor off the bench.
Springboks flanker Brussow powered off the edge of a ruck and uncapped wing English - borrowed for the day from Australia’s tour squad - bolted over after incisive breaks from Thomson and Halai.
Rhodes forced his way over after some direct drives and De Jongh got over in the corner before replacement flanker Grant’s persistence was rewarded with Leicester’s fourth try.
But Blues youngster Li soon raced in down the left and De Jongh was over the line for a potential hat-trick before handing the ball off to Botes who touched down and converted his own score from the final play.

Leicester F Burns (T Bell 51-62); M Benjamin, C Loamanu (A Thompstone 41), A Allen (Bell 22-32), V Goneva; O Williams, D Mele (G Tressider 62); M Rizzo, J Farnworth (G Nairn 72), F Balmain (T {Pasquali 57), H Wells, S de Chaves (C Beckett 65), L Pearce, J Gibson (P Grant 8-18), J Crane (captain) (Grant 25). 

Scorers Tries: Burns, Gibson, Loamanu, Grant. Conversions Williams 2, Burns. 

Barbarians T Li (Blues); F Halai (Blues and New Zealand), J de Jongh (Stormers and South Africa), F Saili (Blues and New Zealand), N Cummins (West Red Sparks and Australia); M Boshoff (Golden Lions and South Africa), F Tanaka (Highlanders and Japan); T Du Toit (Sharks), M Schwalger (Chiefs and Samoa), L Adriaanse (Sharks), D Bird (Canterbury and New Zealand), A Kellock (Glasgow and Scotland, capt), M Rhodes (Stormers), H Brussow (Cheetahs and South Africa), J Botes (Sharks). 

Replacements N Annett (Worcester) for Schwalger 60, J Marshall (Hawke’s Bay and Canada) for du Toit 60, A Ta’avao (Blues) for Adriaanse 51, S Luatua (Blues and New Zealand) for Kellock 52, M Todd (Crusaders and New Zealand) for Brussow 60, A Thomson (Canon Eagles and New Zealand) for Botes 60, S Pretorius (Cheetahs) for Tanaka 44, S Duke (UVIC and Canada) for Cummins 41, T English (Rebels) for de Jongh 22-26, for Halai 60. 

Scorers: Tries: De Jongh 2, Du Toit, Saili, Brussow, English, Rhodes, Li, Botes. Conversions: Boshoff 5, Saili, Botes. 

Referee: T Wigglesworth (RFU).