Australia defence thwarts the Baa-Baas
December 3, 2008
Bryan Habana was a constant threat for the Barbarians, but the Australian defensive line held him at bay throughout a thrilling encounter at Wembley
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Jerry Collins Quade Cooper Ryan Cross Matt Dunning Bryan Habana Sekope Kepu Drew Mitchell Percy Montgomery Federico Pucciariello George Smith Lote Tuqiri Lachie Turner Shane Williams
Australia bounced back from last weekend's defeat against Wales to finish their tour of Europe on a high, as Lote Tuqiri and Lachie Turner scored a try apiece in each half to smother the Barbarians in an entertaining and highly competitive encounter at Wembley.
Facing up to a side stacked with seven World-Cup winning South Africans, Australia treated their end-of-tour send-off with all the respect they might reserve for a full-blooded Test match. Their opponents, in the best traditions of the Barbarians, threw the ball around with abandon, but were repeatedly beaten back in an outstanding defensive display marshalled by the Man of the Match, George Smith.
It was a contest that claimed two injury casualties. Matt Dunning was stretchered off with a snapped Achilles tendon before Sekope Kepu damaged a pectoral muscle, but the impenetrability of Australia's defences were the bedrock of victory.
Tuqiri scored the only try of the first half, latching onto a chip-and-chase after the Barbarians were turned over on their own 22, as Australia took a 13-6 lead into the break, and though Jerry Collins reduced the deficit to two points by bundling over the line following a poor clearance, Turner sealed the match two minutes from time with a try in the left-hand corner after a fine break from Drew Mitchell.
The match had been arranged to mark the centenary of Australia's 1908 Olympic gold medal, when they beat Great Britain 32-3 victory a few miles down the road at White City, and though they had scored six tries that day, their brace of touchdowns proved sufficient 100 years later.
Midway through the second half, Collins profited from a dazzling Shane Williams run to haul the Barbarians back to 13-11 and set up a dramatic finish, though Francois Steyn missed the chance to steal the contest when he fluffed a simple late penalty.
The early pressure had been created by the Barbarians, with Bryan Habana making the first try-scoring opportunity of the evening, with a break through the middle and a chip over the advancing Australian full-back James O'Connor. But Tuqiri, making his first appearance of the tour after recovering from a knee injury, covered well to keep out Richie McCaw - and then finished a brilliant Ryan Cross break to score at the other end.
James O'Connor, who became Australia's second youngest international in the Wallabies' win over Italy last month, converted the try and then stretched the lead to 13-0 with two penalties. But just to prove this was no jolly, Italian prop Federico Pucciariello and Australian fly-half Quade Cooper careered through the advertising hoardings as they came to blows.
With their attacking intentions thwarted, the Barbarians pulled themselves back into the game through the boot of Percy Montgomery, who landed two penalties to put the Barbarians on the scoreboard before being replaced by the Welsh winger and world player of the year, Williams, at the interval.
Williams scored in Wales' 21-18 victory over Australia in Cardiff on Saturday and he brought the crowd to its feet every time he got the ball. And when O'Connor scuffed a clearance from his own line, Williams was on hand to punish the Wallabies again. He burst down the left wing and drew three covering defenders before he popped the inside pass for Collins to barrel over for the try.
Steyn missed the conversion and then a simple penalty with eight minutes remaining, which would have nudged the Barbarians ahead. And the Wallabies sealed the Cornwall Cup, which was lifted by Smith, thanks to Turner's game-sealing try.
Australia: James O'Connor; Lote Tuqiri, Ryan Cross, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Digby Ioane; Quade Cooper, Brett Sheehan; Sekope Kepu, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Matt Dunning, Mark Chisholm, Hugh McMeniman, Dean Mumm, George Smith, Richard Brown
Replacements: Adam Freier, Ben Alexander, Peter Kimlin, David Pocock, Luke Burgess, Lachie Turner, Drew Mitchell
Barbarians: Percy Montgomery; Joe Rokocoko, Rico Gear, Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana; Francois Steyn, Fourie du Preez; Federico Pucciariello, John Smit, Cencus Johnson, Bakkies Botha, Johann Muller, Jerry Collins, Schalk Burger, Richie McCaw
Replacements: Mark Regan, Rodney Blake, Chris Jack, Nick Koster, George Gregan, Ollie Smith, Shane Williams