Lions flanker and Blitzboks Sevens sensation Kwagga Smith was the man of the match at Twickenham but his brilliance for the Barbarians wasn’t enough to secure a famous triumph for rugby’s grand old club against the All Blacks.
The All Blacks won 31-22 after the Barbarians led 17-5 midway through the first half.
A crowd in excess of 60 000 were treated to a wonderful opening half of vintage attacking rugby from the Barbarians and to a lesser degree the All Blacks. The Baabaas dominated 70 percent possession and territory in this 30 minute period they scored three tries to the the one of the All Blacks.
Gradually the All Blacks started to tighten their game, win a bit more ball and make telling scores to turn the 17-5 deficit into a 31-17 lead.
Heavy rain in the second half ended the free-flowing spectacle, as did a 14-point burst in three minutes for the All Blacks, and once the men in black got ahead there was only ever going to be one winner.
The Barbarians scored with the last play of the game and they were also done plenty of favours by referee Nigel Owens, who made it clear he was showing empathy to the occasion. He let a lot go that ordinarily would have been penalised and was very lenient on the Baabaas.
Nevertheless, it was a brave effort from a New Zealand-dominated Barbarians outfit and the match very much resembled a good quality all-New Zealand Super Rugby match, with a sprinkling of South African brilliance.
Smith and former All Blacks Steven Luatua were the best of the Barbarians pack and the Crusaders duo of flyhalf Richie Mo’unga and fullback George Bridge scored three of the Barbarians four tries.
Julian Savea tried hard for the Barbarians but lacked impact. His brother Ardi Savea was more prominent for the All Blacks, especially in the second half when Sam Cane (flank) and Tawerra Kerr-Barlow (scrumhalf) added grunt and structure to what was a very loose first half effort. Waisake Naholo, playing right wing, was also good.
Cane and captain Beauden Barrettt were two of only a handful of All Blacks who will feature in the Test against France in Paris next weekend, with the victors against the Barbarians largely made up of the second tier All Blacks.
Tries: Richard Mo’unga, George Bridge (2), Sam Carter
Tries: TJ Perenara, Vaea Fifita, Ngani Laumape, Sam Cane, Nathan Harris
Conversions: Beauden Barrett (3)
15 George Bridge (Crusaders), 14 Julian Savea (Hurricanes & New Zealand), 13 Richard Buckman (Highlanders), 12 Harold Vorster (Lions), 11 Vince Aso (Hurricanes), 10 Richie Mo’unga (Crusaders), 9 Andy Ellis (Kobelco Steelers & New Zealand, captain), 8 Luke Whitelock (Highlanders & New Zealand, vice captain), 7 Kwagga Smith (Lions), 6 Steven Luatua (Bristol & New Zealand), 5 Dominic Bird (Chiefs & New Zealand), 4 Sam Carter (Brumbies & Australia), 3 Atu Moli (Chiefs), 2 Adriaan Strauss (Bulls & South Africa), 1 Jacques van Rooyen (Lions)
Substitutes: 16 Akker van der Merwe (Sharks),17 Ben Franks (London Irish & New Zealand), 18 Ruan Smith (Toyota Verblitz), 19 Willie Britz (Sunwolves), 20 Ruan Ackermann (Gloucester), 21 Mitchell Drummond (Crusaders), 22 Robert du Preez (Stormers), 23 Dillon Hunt (Highlanders)
15 David Havili, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Seta Tamanivalu, 10 Beauden Barrett (captain), 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Jerome Kaino, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Vaea Fifita, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Kane Hames
Substitutes: 16 Asafo Aumua, 17 Tim Perry, 18 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Sam Cane, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Lima Sopoaga, 23 Matt Duffie