New Zealand survive Barbarians scare

by AFP

Beauden Barrett's first match as New Zealand captain ended in victory but only after the world champions came from behind to beat the Barbarians 31-22 at Twickenham on Saturday.

The All Blacks were 17-5 down not long before half time in their European tour opener but turned the tide with three tries in six second-half minutes amid a welter of replacements by both teams in a match celebrating the 125th anniversary of the New Zealand Rugby Union.

Brumbies captain Sam Carter contributed to the early lead, scoring a try but two of the stars of the game were the uncapped Barbarians duo of Crusaders fullback George Bridge, who scored two tries against his compatriots, and impressive South African flanker Kwagga Smith.

This non-cap game at a grey and often rainy Twickenham resembled a New Zealand 'Probables v Possibles' trial, with 10 Kiwis in the Barbarians starting XV.

Kwagga Smith starred for Barbarians. Photo: Getty ImagesAll Blacks wing Julian Savea, who has scored 46 tries in 54 Tests, was looking to prove a point for the invitational side after being left out of New Zealand's tour squad but he had a largely quiet game.

Fly-half Barrett was captaining a team for the first time in his rugby career, with regular New Zealand skipper Kieran Read one of several first-choice players omitted by coach Steve Hansen.

"It was not too bad," said Hansen of his much-changed side's display. "We learnt some good lessons out of it.

"We were down 10-0, had to show some composure -- the new skipper he showed a lot.

Barrett added: "It was a great learning experience for me. Going into the week I was quite nervous and then we got to the game -- it wasn't a relief, it was great to be out there.

"The haka was a great buzz for me, quite daunting thinking about it but once I was out there I really enjoyed it and, going forward, I think I'll be able to assist Kieran a lot better than I have been."

Adding to the New Zealand flavour was the fact that the Barbarians were coached by former Crusaders and Australia boss Robbie Deans, himself a former All Blacks fullback.

"It was a proud effort," said Deans. "The good thing is we had a crack."

The Barbarians were hoping to record their third win over New Zealand following a celebrated 23-11 success in Cardiff in 1973 and a 25-18 victory when they last met at Twickenham in 2009.

They took just eight minutes to score following a five-metre scrum as Barbarians captain Andy Ellis -- a former All Blacks scum-half -- sent in fly-half and compatriot Richie Mo'unga at the right corner.

They soon doubled their lead when former All Blacks back-row Steven Luatua intercepted a pass on his own 22 and burst clear before finding Bridge, who scored in the left corner.

New Zealand won the Killik Cup. Photo: Getty ImagesMo'unga missed both conversions but the Baabaas led 10-0 on 14 minutes.

New Zealand eventually hit back when a sustained period of pressure ended with wing Waisake Naholo sending over scrum-half TJ Perenara in the corner.

Liam Sopoaga, taking over kicking duties while Barrett was in the blood-bin, made a hash of the conversion but New Zealand were back in the game.

The Barbarians were on soon top and a quick tap penalty from close range led to their third try. Ellis ran the ball before Wallaby lock Sam Carter forced his way over.

This time Mo'unga did convert and the Barbarians led 17-5.

Eventually, New Zealand hit back when Naholo sent in flanker Vaea Fifita for a try on an overlap four minutes before half-time.

Barrett missed the conversion but come the 53rd minute New Zealand were level when centre Ngani Laumape surged through Mo'unga's tackle after taking a flat pass off a five-metre scrum for a converted try.

Just two minutes later, the All Blacks were in front when Laumape stepped past Luatua and replacement Sam Cane burrowed over.

New Zealand added another score when hooker Nathan Harris cashed in with a try.

But, with 80 minutes on the clock, the Barbarians had the last word when a fine move led to Bridge's second try.


Barbarians 22

Tries: Bridge 2, Mo'unga, Carter

Cons: Mo'unga

New Zealand 31

Tries: Perenara, Fifita, Laumape, Cane, Harris

Cons: Barrett 3