Saturday 21 October 2017

Baa-Baas turn on style to sink tired Ireland

Tough for Schmidt to draw World Cup conclusions from entertaining clash

Barbarians' Joe Rokocoko tackled by Ireland's Craig Gilroy during the friendly match at Thomond Park, Limerick
Barbarians' Joe Rokocoko tackled by Ireland's Craig Gilroy during the friendly match at Thomond Park, Limerick
Jimmy Gopperth, Barbarians, is tackled by Richardt Strauss, Ireland (Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE)

IRELAND 21 BARBARIANS 22

Before the team coach left for Thomond Park last night, Joe Schmidt sat down with his backroom team with a blank sheet of paper and had a go at picking his World Cup squad.

Whether the 80 minutes that followed changed his thinking in any way is questionable as his off-colour Ireland team were beaten by a Barbarians side who lived up to their reputation and played some superb rugby.

While the invitational side were a picture of fun, wowing the 16,110 crowd with flicks, tricks and some brilliant individual play, the Six Nations champions looked stale and ready for the beach.

This was a night to sit back and marvel at the skills on show from this loveable relic of the amateur game. So much about professional rugby is so po-faced and cut-throat, and the sight of Joe Rokocoko and David Smith having a cut was a refreshing antidote.

Luke Marshall, Ireland, in action against Shane Jennings, left, and Adam Jones, Barbarians (Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE)
Luke Marshall, Ireland, in action against Shane Jennings, left, and Adam Jones, Barbarians (Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE)

It was one of those nights where no-one was going to play their way into the World Cup squad, but you could easily damage your chances. Dave Kearney drew the short straw as he lined up against Toulon flyer Smith, who was a joy to watch, while Dan Tuohy looked a little sluggish after featuring heavily in Ulster's run-in.

Jack McGrath got himself sin-binned for dropping a knee into Konstantin Mikautadze and Schmidt later conceded his disapproval of a rare yellow card was part of the reason the loosehead remained off the pitch after his 10 minutes were up.

Now it's a waiting game to see if he might face further sanction as the citing commissioner reviews the incident.

"It's a little bit difficult but you can still get an idea of who coped in the situations which arose," Schmidt said when asked what he could take from the exercise. "We got an opportunity to look at some guys at a level they hadn't played at before to see how they adjusted against players they hadn't played against before."

The coach lamented his side's lack of accuracy and inability to dominate the breakdown where the Barbarians were excellent.

Their early positivity got its reward when they tapped a kickable penalty and spotted an overlap on the right wing, with quick hands from Smith putting Alex Cuthbert over.

Jimmy Gopperth missed the conversion and Ireland looked to play their way into the game through their maul which served to drag the Baa-Baas into a game they didn't want to play. They repelled the maul, but that just led to scrums and that caused problems for Robbie Deans' side.

On his first outing in green, Tadhg Furlong had Roberto Tejerizo in all sorts of bother and, after Jamie Heaslip turned down another kickable penalty, he picked from the base and fed Eoin Reddan, who executed a neat switch that sent Craig Gilroy over.

Madigan converted as the heavens opened. That only served to compound the Barbarians' problems as they stuck to their traditions and looked to run from deep.

Barbarians captain Shane Jennings with the final score displayed on the scoreboard towards the final seconds of the game (Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE)
Barbarians captain Shane Jennings with the final score displayed on the scoreboard towards the final seconds of the game (Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE)

When they managed to find some space for their wing wonder Smith, they lit up Thomond Park, but on the whole it was an error-strewn, loose affair with the Baa-Baas looking to throw it around and Ireland trying to have it both ways by keeping it structured while turning down points.

Ireland lost some momentum when McGrath got himself sin-binned, while Madigan was lucky to escape a similar fate for a rake down Mikautadze's back.

Tejerizo soon joined his opposite number in the stand as Greg Garner lost patience with the prop after yet another scrum went down.

Ireland might have hoped that would give them the advantage, but instead the Baa-Baas remained determined to enjoy their outing. With Smith and Vosloo at the heart of everything and Rokocoko turning on the style they were causing Ireland all sorts of problems. Their positive play got its reward when Leinster full-back Zane Kirchner scored a stunning try, stepping inside Madigan before chipping over Rob Kearney's head, collecting and scoring.

Read more: Depleted Ireland not good enough for energetic Barbarians

Read more: As it happened: Ireland 21 Barbarians 22

Gopperth nailed the conversion and then made it a two-score game when Jennings invoked the ire of the crowd by opting for the posts when awarded a penalty.

Ireland responded with some tired-looking plays before finally getting back into the game through their trusty maul, Chris Henry coming up with the ball after the Barbarians' resistance finally succumbed.

Madigan converted to narrow the margin to a point, but back came the Barbarians as they battered the Irish line before Cuthbert eventually got over from close range for his second try of the night.

Gopperth's conversion restored the eight-point lead, but Paddy Jackson crossed in the closing stages as Ireland looked to finish on a high. Madigan's drop-goal conversion gave them a shot at winning as Gopperth kicked off with 30 seconds to go, but the he then knocked on in his '22' to hand the Baa-Baas a deserved win.

BARBARIANS - Z Kirchner; A Cuthbert, J Rokocoko (G Aplon 61), W Olivier, D Smith; J Gopperth, R Pienaar; R Tejerizo, D Fourie (D Ward 80), A Jones; R Capo Ortega (N Hines 8), K Mikautadze; S Jennings (capt), G Vosloo, R Koliniasi Holani (S Taumoepeau 46) (G Smith 51).

IRELAND - R Kearney; D Kearney, C O'Shea (C Kelleher 75), L Marshall (P Jackson 52), C Gilroy; I Madigan, E Reddan (L McGrath 63); J McGrath (R Diack 42,J Murphy 55), R Strauss (R Herring 55-59), T Furlong (M Ross 63); D Toner, D Tuohy (B Marshall 63); R Diack (M Bent 40), C Henry (R Diack 77), J Heaslip (capt).

Ref - G Garner (England)

Irish Independent

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