Barbarians Win Thriller at Twickenham
It proved the perfect send-off for Martin Corry and Josh Lewsey to English rugby as Martin Johnson’s youthful side shipped five tries – including two for the former red rose wing Iain Balshaw.
The hosts were outclassed for much of the game by a Barbarians team boasting seven former All Blacks and a total of 632 international caps.
Although Johnson should have the likes of Mark Cueto and Ben Kay available for next Saturday’s first Test against Argentina, he will have major concerns over the state of England’s flimsy defence heading up to Old Trafford.
Corry and Lewsey were key figures as the Barbarians opened a 14-0 lead with tries from Balshaw and Chris Jack before Ben Foden – one of six players making his first senior England start – produced a strong finish to score in the corner.
The Barbarians surged clear after the interval with embarrasing ease as Rocky Elsom and Gordon D’Arcy touched down either side of Balshaw’s second try.
Jordan Turner-Hall, Tom May (wearing his Puma V1-08 Rugby boots) and Matt Banahan notched debut tries as the Barbarians wilted and England hit back in the closing stages to avoid a record defeat and regain some pride.
But England were too far behind and in the end they were mere consolation scores on a day reserved for the retiring World Cup-winning duo of Corry and Lewsey.
Both players head for Australia with the Barbarians tonight. For Corry it was a victorious end to his English career after missing out on Leicester’s Guinness Premiership triumph a fortnight ago.
And as Lewsey left the field to a standing ovation he would have been justified to feel as though a point had been proved to Johnson, who made it clear earlier this season that his England career was over.
The Wasps centre created the opening try with a deft kick in behind the England defence and although Balshaw was offside it was not spotted by the officials and he scooped up the loose ball to score.
After an uninspiring start, including a missed penalty from Goode, that sparked England into action.
Armitage sliced through the Barbarians defence and Goode almost creating a try for himself with a neat chip over the top only to be denied by a finger-tip interception by Justin Marshall.
Jamie Noon scorched around the outside of Glenn Jackson but he was felled just short of the line as the Saracens fly-half recovered well to catch him with an excellent tap-tackle.
But in defence England were disorganised and that allowed the Barbarians’ more enterprising approach to pay dividends.
Jack galloped over in the corner and Ben Blair converted to open a 14-0 lead after Corry’s barnstorming run through the middle.
England responded positively and finally worked a breakthrough after 33 minutes when Danny Care and Chris Robshaw combined to send Foden over in the corner.
The versatile Northampton back, playing today on the right wing, is renowned more for his pace and footwork than his power but he held off two tacklers after latching onto Robshaw’s inside pass to score in the corner.
Johnson made one change at the interval with May replacing Noon in midfield but the second half was barely two minutes old when England were ripped apart again.
The rampaging Elsom, who is heading back to Australia after helping Leinster win the Heineken Cup, burst onto a pass from the brilliant Blair and outpaced Nick Easter to score.
Blair missed his first conversion attempt of the afternoon but was soon presented with another touchline opportunity after Balshaw touched down for his second try.
D’Arcy (wearing his Puma King XL rugby boots) was given the freedom of Twickenham by some more weak England defence and hooker Schalk Britz sent the Biarritz-bound winger ghosted over untouched.
This was now embarrasing and it got worse. Lewsey danced around both Louis Deacon and Steve Borthwick before supplying the scoring pass to D’Arcy, who sauntered under the posts.
Armitage, whose class at full-back stood out despite the failings of those around him, saved England the ignominy of conceding a 50-metre to a hooker when he executed a brilliant last-ditch tackle to haul Britz into touch just as the South African reached for the line.
England managed to avoid a record defeat with a glut of three tries in quick succession as the Barbarians began to tire in the closing stages.
All three were created by kicks from Goode, who picked out Turner-Hall, May and then Banahan as England closed to within one score with five minutes remaining.
Lewsey (wearing his Nike total 90 laser 2 rugby boots) was given a rousing farewell as he was replaced Mike Catt in what could also prove to be the veteran fly-half general’s final big-match appearance at Twickenham.
Tries: Foden, Turner-Hall, May, Banahan
Con: Goode 3
Tries: Balshaw 2, Jack, Elsom, D’Arcy
Con: Blair 4
England: 15 Delon Armitage (London Irish), 14 Ben Foden (Northampton), 13 Jamie Noon (Newcastle), 12 Jordan Turner-Hall (Harlequins), 11 Matt Banahan (Bath), 10 Andy Goode (Brive), 9 Danny Care (Harlequins), 8 Nick Easter (Harlequins), 7 Lewis Moody (Leicester), 6 Chris Robshaw (Harlequins), 5 Louis Deacon (Leicester), 4 Steve Borthwick (Saracens, capt), 3 David Wilson (Newcastle), 2 Dylan Harltey (Northampton), 1 Tim Payne (Wasps).
Replacements: 16 Steve Thompson (Brive), 17 Nick Wood (Gloucester), 18 Chris Jones (Sale Sharks), 19 Steffon Armitage (London Irish), 20 James Haskell (Wasps), 21 Paul Hodgson (London Irish), 22 Tom May (Newcastle).
Barbarians: 15 Ben Blair (Cardiff Blues & New Zealand), 14 Doug Howlett (Munster & New Zealand), 13 Josh Lewsey (London Wasps & England), 12 Gordon D’Arcy (Leinster & Ireland), 11 Iain Balshaw (Gloucester Rugby & England), 10 Glen Jackson (Saracens), 9 Justin Marshall (Saracens & New Zealand), 8 Rocky Elsom (Leinster & Australia), 7 Serge Betsen (London Wasps & France), 6 Jerry Collins (Toulon & New Zealand), 5 Chris Jack (Saracens & New Zealand), 4 Martin Corry (Leicester Tigers & England, captain), 3 Greg Somerville (Gloucester Rugby & New Zealand), 2 Schalk Brits (Stormers & South Africa), 1 Clarke Dermody (London Irish & New Zealand).
Replacements: 16 Sebastien Bruno (Sale Sharks & France), 17 B J Botha (Ulster & South Africa), 18 Paul Tito (Cardiff Blues), 19 Phil Waugh (Waratahs & Australia), 20 Chris Whitaker (Leinster & Australia), 21 Mike Catt (London Irish & England), 22 Ratu Nasiganiyavi (Waratahs).
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Hugh Watkins (Wales)
Television match officials: Brian Abrahams (England), Nigel Whitehouse (Wales)
Assessor: Ed Morrison (England)