By NICHOLAS RUSSELL, RugbyHeaven
By NICHOLAS RUSSELL, RugbyHeaven
Thursday, 04 December 2008
A standout performance by former All Blacks hardman Jerry Collins couldn't stop Robbie Deans' young Wallabies as they beat a formidable Barbarians side 18-11 at Wembley today. The Baabaas, with four of the last five winners of the IRB Player of the Year award, were always going to be a tough ask for a Wallabies outfit resting the likes of skipper Stirling Mortlock, first five-eighth Matt Giteau and lock Nathan Sharpe at the end of their long tour north.
However, Deans put faith in his rising stars - the likes of 20-year-old first five Quade Cooper, 18-year-old fullback James O'Connor and uncapped lock Peter Kimlin. They delivered a mix of powerful and committed defence and counter-attacking rugby to frustrate the Barbarians in what was a torrid match that saw the Wallabies suffer serious injuries to Matt Dunning and Sekope Kepu.
Dunning was stretchered off in agony with a torn Achilles tendon and Kepu too grimaced in pain while being assisted from the field with his right arm cradled in his jersey after tearing a pectoral muscle. The four Kiwis in the starting XV invitational side had strong games, particularly Collins who was in the thick of the action throughout and scored a crucial try in the second half.
He has reportedly been struggling for his French club Toulon but showed his class as he ran and tackled himself to a standstill against a relentless Wallabies side looking to end their season in style. Richie McCaw, who surprisingly played the full 80 minutes, nearly got a try of his own at the start of the second half after getting on the end of a big attacking movement started by wings Bryan Habana and Joe Rokocoko.
Rico Gear had a tough time of it in midfield as the Wallabies defence rushed up, closing any gaps, and was subbed in the second half. Former All Black Chris Jack also made a welcome return to the field after a long injury layoff as a second-half substitute for the Baabaas.
The first try of the match came after 12 minutes when Wallabies wing Lote Tuqiri latched on to a well-weighted chip kick from Ryan Cross. O’Conner added the extras from out in front to give them an early lead.
They extended their lead in the 18th minute after hands in the ruck and O’Conner slotted the penalty from a handy position. A Collins infringement in the 22nd minute cost the Barbarians another three points when O’Conner stepped up again to make it 13-0.
Plenty of possession and some trademark hard running from the likes of Schalk Berger and Collins challenged the Wallabies defensive line but they held strong. Springboks first-five Francois Steyn seemed to go off-message a few times when he resorted to unsuccessful long-range drop goal attempts from halfway to get them on the board.
The Baabaas kept attacking in the first half but couldn’t find any space and after bashing away without reward for 34 minutes captain John Smit finally relented and let Percy Montgomery have a shot at goal after they had earlier passed up the opportunity.
The crowd didn’t like it but it put them on the board close to the end of the first half.
In the 37th minute the Barbarians were hot on attack and the Wallabies coughed up another penalty from a kickable position and Montgomery stepped up to make it 10-6.
The second half started with the superstars stretching their legs through a break down the right flank by Rokocoko and Habana. The movement nearly resulted in a McCaw try, but he was held up over the line. Down the other end Adam Ashley-Cooper came close to scoring eight minutes into the half after he scythed through the Barbarians defence but Fourie du Preez managed to keep him from grounding the ball.
Collins scored his try in the 61st minute after a poor clearance attempt by the Wallabies was gathered up. Welsh wing Shane Williams found some space down the left side and linked up infield with Collins who was unstoppable from a few metres out.
Montgomery missed the conversion to make it 11-13, setting up an exciting final quarter of the game. It took a brilliant counter-attacking try by Lachie Turner to seal the match for the Wallabies with three minutes remaining.
A stunning in-out run from Drew Mitchell put Turner clear on the outside to cap off a great night, marking 100 years since the Olympic rugby final won by Australia over Great Britain in London. The Wallabies were awarded gold medals to mark their achievement today.