The Wallabies’ stern defensive effort laid the platform for an 18-11 victory over the Barbarians at Wembley.
The Baa Baas were essentially a World XV, but their lack of preparation (only two training sessions) was always going to count against them. Conversely, the Aussie youngsters took to the fixture as if it was a full-blown Test, and their intensity pulled them through.
Initially the Barbarians forced the Australians into many tackles with an attack based on plenty of pace. The composite side had most of the ball, but they didn’t have the organisation or understanding to unlock the defence, and this was epitomised by the first Australian try.
The Baas Baas took the ball through several phases but the turnover was won by the Wallabies, Ryan Cross handed-off Jean De Villiers and Lote Tuqiri then scored the try 60m down the field. The Wallabies’ success was based on defence, along with some cynical work at the breakdown, but they nonetheless got away with it.
The Frans Steyn experiment at flyhalf was an undisputed failure. The first kick-off of the match went into touch from Steyn, and that set the tone for the rest of his 80 minutes. He seemed to be trying to hard to impress, instead of playing his natural game, and at times it ended in embarrassing results - his three aimless drop-kicks highlighting this, while he shanked an attempted penalty to win the match.
The dream loose-trio for the Baa Baas (Schalk Burger, Richie McCaw and Jerry Collins) exacted numerous turnovers early on, with Burger executing the first hit then McCaw burrowing for the turnover, while Burger was also especially prominent with ball in hand as he always got over the gain line. But unfortunately this was typical of the match for the Baa Baas - much individual skill but the lack of preparation of time didn’t help with the synergy or produce the desired results.
The Aussies held a 13-6 lead heading into the shed and with the two Aussie props (Matt Dunning and Sekope Kepu) forced off seven minutes into the second half, the match was resigned to uncontested scrums.
A lull in the match followed, but eventually it came to light with a mistake from rookie Aussie fullback James O’Connor, who hacked the ball straight to De Villiers. The South African Player of the Year pulled off a magnificent pass to World Player of the Year Shane Williams, who popped the ball back into Jerry Collins who barged over.
That brought the Baa Baas within two points with a quarter to go, but Steyn’s attempted three-pointer for the win faded away, and then the second Wallaby try was almost a repeat of the first – the turnover won, the ball shifted neatly wide and replacement Lachie Turner cantered over after some good work from Drew Mitchell.
The win caps off an arduous tour for the Aussies, but coach Robbie Deans will be pleased that his rookies sent the tour party off on a positive note.
Barbarians – Try: Jerry Collins. Penalties: Percy Montgomery (2).
Australia –Tries: Lote Tuqiri, Lachie Turner. Conversion: James O’Connor. Penalties: O’Connor (2).
By Grant Ball