England edge past Barbarians
May 30, 2010
England captain Nick Easter lifts the silverware following his side's victory over the Barbarians at Twickenham
© Getty Images
England warmed up for their tour of Australia and New Zealand with a 35-26 victory over the Barbarians in their traditional end of season clash at Twickenham.
In what was a frustrating game of two halves for England manager Martin Johnson, first half tries from flanker James Haskell, centre Shontayne Hape and fullback Ben Foden and 10 points from the boot of returning fly-half Charlie Hodgson put the hosts in control against a lacklustre Barbarians side who crossed for a solitary try through winger Paul Sackey that was converted by No.10 Jean Baptiste Elissalde. Centre Mike Tindall stretched England's lead shortly after the break but the Baa Baas struck back through winger David Smith, prop Cencus Johnston and Sackey to give Johnson plenty of food for thought.
England head Down Under tomorrow night for a five-match tour that includes two Tests against the Wallabies, two meetings with the Australian Barbarians and a clash with the New Zealand Maori.
Hodgson was making his first England appearance since 2008 after being recalled to the squad for the summer tour to Australia and New Zealand two years after his defensive frailties were exposed by the All Blacks. Also making his first appearance since the opening Test in Auckland in 2008 was winger David Strettle. The uncapped trio of Lock Dave Attwood, prop Jon Golding and centre Shontayne Hape started while Harlequins No.8 Nick Easter led the side.
Hodgson's return to England colours did not start well with his kick off failing to go the required 10 metres and an early penalty against hooker Steve Thompson soon offered Elissalde the opportunity to open the score but the soon-to-retire Toulouse star was wide with his kick.
A leading forearm from Barbarians captain Xavier Rush then hammered into England loose-head Jon Golding to illustrate the select side would not be taking things lightly but the Cardiff Blues talisman was penalised by referee Jerome Garces. However, another poor strike from Hodgson saw his kick miss its target.
Cueto produced the first eye-catching break of the game moments later, exploiting a huge hole in the Barbarians defence, but he could not find support as he powered into the 22. The ball was then worked wide to Thompson who could not find a way through but play was called back for a deliberate knock-on that allowed Hodgson to settle his nerves and put England into the lead.
Lock Tom Palmer and his second row partner Dave Attwood then combined well to open up the Barbarians again with some desperate defence leading to another penalty that Hodgson slotted to double his side's advantage.
Haskell was the next to cut through the lacklustre Barbarians defence and powered up the touchline before cleverly dancing past fullback Paul Warwick on his way to the first try of the game. Hodgson added the extras to cement England's lead and they were soon celebrating again. Another excellent break from Cueto exposed the Barbarians' defensive shortcomings and took England downfield where the ball eventually found its way to Hape who the shrugged off a couple of tackles before coasting in for a try on his England bow. Hodgson kept the scoreboard ticking over with the simple conversion.
The Barbarians rallied with their first real incision into the England half but they failed to unlock the home side's defence with Palmer stealing a lineout to snuff out the danger. But the Baa Baas were son on the front again with Elissalde ghosting up to the England 22 with a neat chip and collect before feeding Sackey who fended off Hodgson for an easy try that the Frenchman also converted.
Sackey was soon looking for a second but England forced the turnover with Easter, then Thompson eating up yards before a good pass found Foden who had too much pace for the covering defence. Barkley, a blood replacement for Hodgson, could not make the difficult conversion but there was no doubt as to the better side as the teams headed to the tunnel.
Golding was the next England casualty shortly after the break to be replaced by Tim Payne but it robbed them of little momentum with Tindall straightening nicely to breach the non-existent defence before powering in to score his side's fourth try that was converted by Barkley.
Another crowd-pleasing burst from Cueto soon had the England fans on their feet again but it was the Barbarians who grabbed the next score with a solid 5m scrum providing the platform for a smart exchange between scrum-half Byron Kelleher and Smith with the latter showing good strength to get over the line. Elissalde's conversion saw his side keep pace with England in the second half at least.
Changes stripped England of a little shape and the Barbarians almost capitalised with a cross-kick from Elissalde finding winger Cedric Heymans who flicked the ball inside to Smith only for the New Zealand to be hauled down just short. But the Barbarians were soon knocking on the door again with replacement prop Cencus Johnston forcing his way over in the corner.
Elissalde pushed his conversion wide but the momentum remained with the Barbarians as the game entered the final ten minutes and they should have scored again when veteran prop Rodrigo Roncero and flanker Rodney So'oialo carved England open all too easily. But they would not be deterred and the elusive Heymans found some room out wide before popping the ball inside to Sackey who sprinted in for his second try. Elissalde was on target with the conversion to bring his side to within a converted score with just three minutes of the game remaining.
But it was as close as they would get with England opting to keep it tight from the re-start with a final penalty for Barkley setting the seal on a victory that left as many questions as answers.
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