Following the Barbarians’ 48-42 victory over the World XV, here’s our five takeaways from the match at Twickenham on Sunday.
The top line
Dour, attritional and stoic.
Those are certainly three words that won’t spring to mind after this fantastic exhibition of handling and skilful rugby from some of the world’s most gifted players. The 32,000 who braved the heat to support a wonderful initiative were rewarded with breath-taking tries galore from a galaxy of oval ball stars.
From the moment Seb Negri flew over in the sixth minute until the very last kick of the match, fittingly taken but sadly missed by the great Alun Wyn Jones, it was a thrill a minute as the two teams racked up a staggering 14 tries, with Sbu Nkosi and the outstanding Seta Tamanivalu both grabbing a brace each.
Superbly officiated by Tom Foley, a man not scared of applying Nelson’s Eye on a couple of occasions just to keep the spirit of the game intact, this was a celebration of rugby and one that will remain in the memories of those that saw it for some time.
The great Alun Wyn Jones
The former Welsh skipper isn’t noted for taking too many chances when he’s on a rugby pitch, but today he joined in with the celebrations in a way many haven’t seen many times before.
Offloads came hither and thither as his massive hands set up a beauty for his fellow locking partner Stephan Lewies, who had all of one metre to travel once the mighty Osprey had done all of the grunt work to set up his score.
More importantly, Jones spoke powerfully post-match about the need to retain the special status of the Barbarians.
“This was one I had to tick off,” he commented. “I’ve not played for them for 17 years, and some of the lads today are lucky to get this chance so early in their careers. I was brought up watching these games on VHS video tape and it’s fantastic to be part of it.
“I’ve got a couple of days to get myself right for another big game against Swansea next week. I’ll be hoping to work on my place kicking a little bit, as that clearly is a weakness in my game.”
Jones refused to be drawn on his personal future in the game at domestic level, but seeing this side of the great Lion was a pleasure for all – and hopefully will give him the motivation just to carry on for a year or so more in his amazing career.
The Barbarians and World XV’s love of running rugby was always going to throw up a few fun moments, and it’s certain that Nkosi, despite his all-round excellence, might just be sanctioned heavily for his break and brilliance that saw him touch down, but sadly over the dead ball line. His charge sheet might be a hefty one – with a hat trick, try and jug avoidance known to carry the severest penalties, especially considering the aggravated nature of blowing the try through his own actions. One hopes he won’t get a custodial sentence, but with crimes as heinous as those, there’s no telling what the judges and jury might come up with, and one can only pray for his continued liberty.
Jones is also certain to receive a hefty sentence for impersonating a goal kicker. However, Planet Rugby can reveal exclusively that his agent has claimed pure footballing incompetence as mitigation and a plea bargain of a repeat effort off the tee next week in Swansea, although rather worryingly for the big lock, the prosecution is also thought to be considering a further charge of ‘doubling career offload tally’ in one single match.
Thanks World XV for a brilliant game of rugby.
— Barbarian FC (@Barbarian_FC) May 28, 2023
Adam Radwan is sure to cop a severe intervention too; for a number of seasons, his pace down the right wing with the ball in hand has thrilled the Newcastle faithful. Yet today, after all the chat about his gas and trickery, he endured the ultimate humiliation of a winger scoring a try from a maul in a Barbarians shirt. The prosecution will go hard at the Falcon, claiming they have 29 witnesses that will attest to seeing his crimes, and we will be following the story of his impending sanctions with interest.
Unlike Alun Wyn, some of the players on display are very much available for the 2023 Rugby World Cup and judging by the efforts they put in; they are very keen to get a slot in their respective national sides.
England’s Radwan, one fluffed catch aside, showed a defensive side to his game that some were unsure of. His tackle and jackal to slow Semi Radradra down and win a penalty will have surely gone down in Steve Borthwick’s notepad with a tick alongside.
The Welsh contingent, notably Rhys Patchell and the superb Aaron Wainwright, did a lot to further their causes, and with Gareth Anscombe getting through the game unscathed, Warren Gatland will benefit from today’s outing.
Eddie Jones is also keen to make an impression with Australia in France, and Quade Cooper will be a vital point of difference for his side. With Nick Phipps also enjoying an extended run, he’ll be pleased with the outings of his charges but will be concerned that his superstar centre Samu Kerevi limped off within the first 30 of the match.
The Tongans will also have enjoyed their day. With South Africa and Ireland in their group, they look well capable of blooding a few noses with their abrasion and power. Charles Piutau might not have got onto the teamsheet, but he popped up everywhere, and alongside fellow Bear and Fiji centre Radradra he showed just why those two men have been loved in the Premiership for so long.
The bottom line
This was precisely what rugby should be, FUN.
Sure, there were a few undercurrents at play here, Jones’ personality is such that under the jocular-wise cracks, he wanted to remind England and the RFU just what a great coach he is.
And for the first time Twickenham watcher – and there were plenty – this showed just how fantastic running rugby can be, despite a few of us older pundits wishing there was at least one more driving maul try.
The Barbarians are an institution in rugby and one of the most celebrated clubs in the game. This was a fantastic end to the English domestic season and a thoroughly wonderful match played in the right spirit- exactly as the Baa-baas will have wanted.