Baa-baas squeeze past spirited Tonga

Date published: November 11 2017

The Barbarians finished off their two-match end-of-year campaign on a high when they claimed a 27-24 win over Tonga at Thomond Park on Friday.

Ultimately it was two very direct tries – lineout drives finished off by Jordi Murphy and Andy Ellis – that saw them home at Thomond Park to end the tour that had seen them narrowly beaten by Australia and New Zealand on successive weekends.

The Barbarians scored two more fluent first half scores through Taqele Naiyaravoro and George Bridge with Robert du Preez adding a penalty and two conversions.

Tonga were highly competitive, scoring tries from Ateli Pakalani and Fotu Lokotui to build up a 14-0 lead and then twice through Sione Vailanu in the second half.

The Pacific islanders are England’s first-up opponents at the 2019 World Cup and showcased their direct and physical style early on.

First Leicester full-back Pakalani and then Counties flanker Lokotui battered their way over for a 14-0 lead to leave the Barbarians in no doubt about the size of the challenge.

They Baa-baas lost James Cronin and Nic Stirzaker to early injuries, too, but worked their way back into the game with a classic combination of power and skill.

Naiyaravoro had impressed with two tries against Australia at the start of the tour and hammered his way up the left for a long-range opening try after fielding a kick-pass out wide.

Then Bridge finished off a fabulous passage of play involving a Richard Buckman flick and a Vince Aso offload to slide over on the right with Du Preez converting to narrow the gap to two points.

The Stormers fly-half edged the Barbarians in front for the first time five minutes before the break with a penalty and Naiyaravoro nearly got away again moments before half time only to be hauled down 10 metres short.

The Barbarians increased the tempo early in the second half but ended up trailing again after replacement flanker Vailanu burst through some slack lineout defence.

But they tightened up their game quickly with a lineout drive that saw Murphy driven over with Du Preez drilling his conversion over through the swirling rain.

Du Preez kept the Tongans at arms-length after that, sliding another fine kick into the corner and this time it was Ellis who joined in the driving maul and emerged from under the forwards with the ball.

Tonga struck again through Vailanu two minutes from time but the Barbarians quickly responded with Bridge and Adriaan Strauss on the attack when they finally ran out of time.

The scorers:

For Barbarians:
Tries:
Naiyaravoro, Bridge, Murphy, Ellis
Cons: Du Preez 2
Pen: Du Preez

For Tonga:
Tries:
Pakalani, Lokotui, Vailanu 2
Cons: Takulua 2

Barbarians: 15 George Bridge, 14 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 13 Richard Buckman, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Vince Aso, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Nic Stirzaker, 8 Willie Britz, 7 Simone Favaro, 6 Jordi Murphy, 5 Quinn Roux, 4 Geoff Parling (c), 3 Brian Scott, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 1 James Cronin
Replacements: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Donncha O’Callaghan, 20 John Muldoon, 21 Andy Ellis, 22 David Smith, 23 Sam Carter

Tonga: 15 Afa Pakalani, 14 David Halaifonua, 13 Nafi Tu'itavake, 12 Tevita Taufu’i, 11 Cooper Vuna, 10 Kalione Hala, 9 Sonatane Takulua, 8 Maama Vaipulu, 7 Fotu Lokotui, 6 Dan Faleafa, 5 Steve Mafi, 4 Leva Fifita, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Sione Lea, 1 Paea Fa'anunu 
Replacements: 16 Maile Ngauamo, 17 Latu Talakai, 18 Halani Aulika, 19 OneHunga Kaufisi, 20 Sione Vailanu, 21 Suke Tuumotooa, 22 Fetuli Paea, 23 Penikolo Latu

Referee: Frank Murphy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Sean Gallagher (Ireland), Joy Neville (Ireland)

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