Fiji thwart BaaBaas fightback to win Twickenham thriller

by AFP

Two tries from South African World Cup winner Makazole Mapimpi were not enough as Fiji recorded their first win over the Barbarians in 49 years, winning a thrilling encounter 33-31 at Twickenham on Saturday.

A largely inexperienced Fijian side produced some magical rugby with man of the match, Fijian Drua flanker John Dyer, scoring a brace of second-half tries to deny England head coach Eddie Jones - who took charge of the Barbarians for the game - a victorious homecoming.

"This is a big win for the boys after not such a good year," said Dyer, referring to Fiji's group stage exit at the World Cup.

Johnny Dyer won man of the match honours for helping guide Fiji to the win. Photo: Getty Images

The Fijians may largely have their careers in front of them but for two of the Barbarians side their days of glory are coming to an end.

Legendary Irish hooker Rory Best and iconic South African prop Tendai 'Beast' Mtawarira lasted just over 50 minutes and an hour respectively.

Best will stay with the 'Baa-Baas' for their remaining two games in Brazil and Wales before finally hanging up his boots.

The Fijians had gone in at the break 14-12 up with both sides having scored two tries, including one for barrel-chested French centre Mathieu Bastareaud, possibly making his last appearance at Twickenham as he is moving to play for Rugby United New York.

The pick of Fiji's first-half tries came from fly-half Teti Tela who wove some of his magic with a brilliant solo run before being on hand to touch down when the ball was worked back to him.

Dyer and Mapimpi exchanged tries early in the second-half - the latter's considerably simpler than the one he scored in the 32-12 World Cup final victory over England earlier this month.

Further Fijian tries came from lock Temo Mayanavanua and Dyer, his second coming seven minutes from the end, looked to have sealed victory.

However, veteran Springbok Morne Steyn, who left Stade Francais this week to return to South Africa, sparked a late comeback.

Mapimpi added a second, dotting down in the left-hand corner after a quick passing movement with both fellow World Cup winner Lukhanyo Am and the evergreen Steyn involved - Steyn converted for 33-24.

Steyn, top points-scorer at the 2011 World Cup, added a try of his own with just over a minute remaining, rounding off a stunning move.

He added the conversion but it came just too late to pull off a miraculous victory.