Nine-try Barbarians turn on style in record win against England


England 45 Barbarians 63

Spring sunshine brought a classic in south-west London as the Barbarians and England shared 15 tries in a feast of end-to-end action, writes Chris Wearmouth.

The famous invitation side fielded some superstar talent from around the world in the Quilter Cup and ran in a record nine tries – three of them from Toulon’s Chris Ashton – to record their biggest ever win in the 17 matches between the sides.

The wealth of talent on show is summed up by the rest of the scoresheet. World Cup winner Victor Vito touched down twice and there were further tries from Scotland’s Finn Russell, Australia’s Sitaleki Timani, Scotland's Greig Laidlaw and Fiji's Semi Radradra, whose breathtaking attacking display earned him the man of the match honours.

England may have recovered the kick off, gone through some phases and put in some big hits on the Barbarians’ 22, but it was the men in hoops who turned up the heat with ball in hand, getting onto the scoreboard with just two minutes on the clock.

Semi Radradra

Semi Redradra won the Quilter Cup man of the match award

Although England were making their tackles the BaaBaas were retaining possession efficiently and patiently, and after working the ball from left to right and back again a couple of times Tuisova made the breakthrough, turning on the afterburners to round Tom Curry and stepping away from Henry Trinder’s despairing attempted tackle.

Within a blink of an eye Tuisova was 80 metres away and over the whitewash, unselfishly feedingAshton for a trademark splash for the opening try.

Four minutes later the Toulon pair was combining again, albeit from closer range and with a touch more panache. From the back of a scrum play came down the blindside, Tuisova steamrollered Piers Francis, fed Ashton, and the full back chipped the rushing defence and beat Zach Mercer for a memorable score.

Three minutes after that Ashton was away in space deep in England territory and in with a shout of one of the fastest hat-tricks in Twickenham history. George Ford showed his character by not giving up the chase and pulling the full back down, but it was just a temporary respite as England conceded a penalty and then a free kick, which allowed the Barbarians to put a trick play into action.

Back came the ball between the legs, NFL-style, to Rhodri Williams, Finn Russell chipped neatly and Victor Vito was on hand to crash over between the posts.

With Russell landing all three conversions the Barbarians had England rocking in all the wrong ways from the home fans’ perspective. So it was to the hosts’ credit that they came back fighting with two tries in three minutes to get themselves back into the contest.

Malakai Fekitoa

Malakai Fekitoa came off the bench to cause havoc at Twickenham

First Elliot Daly powered his way over, then Francis shook off a massive Josh Matavesi tackle to pop up on Jack Singleton’s shoulder to finish off a cracking attack through midfield.

Ford nailed both conversions, and when some sloppy play from Ashton and Tuisova handed England a penalty their fly half pushed his team into the corner and a great attacking position.

The defence held out this time, and with England conceding a couple of penalties in quick succession Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe kept up the pace by tapping and going. This caused England’s defence no end of problems and Ashton took advantage by outstripping his countrymen on the way to try number three.

England tied things up with two more tries of their own before the half-hour. Daly fed Mercer for the first, with Ford capitalising on Benjamin Kayser’s mistake to evade a couple of tackles and send Francis over for his second of the day.

Compared to this scoring fest the final 10 minutes of the half seemed anti-climactic. But in case anyone was in danger of nodding off they received a good elbow in the ribs when Russell and Ashton combined with a long-range one-two for the ninth try of the half, which the Scot finished off superbly.

Tries one to five had showcased speed and talent, but as the second half got going the forwards tried a few phases around the fringes from close range, inching their way towards a more conventional score.

But when that did not come off and England cleared their lines the BaaBaas switched to their traditional Plan A, namely running hard at pace and trusting their quality with ball in hand. It paid off immediately, Radradra hitting a great line to go straight through the attempted tackle and over the whitewash.

Chris Ashton


Chris Ashton scored three tries in the first 24 minutes

England needed a score, and while they got the LED operators busy with half-an-hour to go it was not the five pointer their fans demanded, Ford landing a penalty that brought the biggest ‘boo’ of the day.

The next two penalties they got in the BaaBaas’ 22 went to the corner, which were received more warmly, as was Lobbe’s departure from the pitch for the very last time.

Given the ferocity of the Barbarians’ defence, England would have been forgiven for having taken another shot at the posts, but they kept up the pressure and were rewarded when Joe Launchbury squeezed over by the uprights.

If ever there was a typical English try that was it, and if ever there was a typical Barbarians try it came on the hour, with brilliant footwork and handling from Malakai Fekitoa and Tuisova helping put Sitaleki Timani over in the corner.

It was a try so good that the officials wanted to watch it over and over again on the big screens, and when it was confirmed Russell added some more gloss by maintaining his perfect record off the tee, no small feat given the attempt was right on the far touchline.

Given the conditions and the unrelenting pace thus far it was no surprise that play tailed off somewhat in the final quarter, even if the introduction of all 16 replacements meant that the physicality maintained its intensity.


Celebrations at Twickenham

Pat Lam and his squad celebrate at Twickenham

The 11-point margin was still a bit too close for comfort, so when Tuisova went and handed Laidlaw a try with nine minutes to play the sigh of relief on the BaaBaas’ bench was palpable, especially as Jonny May kept England’s half of the scoreline ticking over by finishing off a Danny Cipriani chip.

That try came with four minutes to play, but there was still enough time for the Barbarians to cap a memorable afternoon with a second of the day for Vito, and with Lobbe nipping back onto the pitch to land his first ever international conversion with his last ever play the smiles were well deserved and well earned.

England: Daly; May, Trinder, Francis, Brown; Ford (co-capt), Youngs; Marler, Singleton, Sinckler, Stooke, Launchbury, Robshaw (co-capt), Curry, Mercer.

Replacements: McGuigan, Genge, Schonert, Beaumont, Wilson, Robson, Cipriani, Solomona

Barbarians: Ashton; Tuisova, Radradra, Matavesi, Adeolokun; Russell, Williams; Buckley, Kayser, Afoa, Dillane, Timane, Fernandez Lobbe (tapt), Tipuric, Vito.

Replacements: Polota-Nau, Uhila, Herrera, Tekori, Latu, Laidlaw, McAlister, Fekitoa