New Zealand. .25
IF this is the progress 20 years on from one of the greatest games ever played, lead me to my time capsule. I cannot wait for the contest in 2013 when, presumably, the son of the son of Derek Quinnell will be playing and the scoring will be a point a minute.
If this match lacked the spontaneous brilliance of that day in 1973 and contained nothing like the Gareth Edwards try, it was still a game of vivid movement, flowing breathlessly from one end to the other.
There was nothing better than the move, started by the quicksilver Tony Clement on his own 22, which ended with Nigel Walker being run to ground by Jeff Wilson close to the All Blacks' line. At this stage the scoring rate was ahead of the clock with the Barbarians responding magnificently to a 17- point deficit.
The All Blacks scored two tries when the game was in its infancy - the first when Olivier Roumat's careless tap at a line- out on the Barbarians' line received the punishment it deserved from Craig Dowd. The second try, remarkably his first of the tour, was scored by Va'aiga Tuigamala. Given the unenviable task of policing him, Tony Stanger waved him through what appeared to be a well-marshalled Barbarian defence. Both tries, plus two penalties, were faultlessly converted by Wilson.
Was there to be no romance to match the occasion 20 years ago? The Barbarians needed a quick response if they were to spare themselves the indignity suffered by other poorly organised sides on this tour. It was understandable in the Barbarians' case, however, that there should be the odd breakdown in communications, and throughout the game this was perhaps the biggest single difference between the sides, and it prevented them from having a realistic chance of victory. But they never stopped trying. Clement showed glimpses of the dazzling counter-thrusts which had simmered below the surface on the Lions' tour. Neil Back's astonishing ability not only to get first to the loose ball, but then to lay his body on the line, provided the Barbarians with first-rate possession. And if Gary Armstrong's cutting edge has been blunted by his self-imposed exile from the international game, he has lost none of his combative energy. Scott Quinnell, with burgeoning power and the nimblest of hands, was another of the Barbarians' chief providers.
Suddenly they were back in the game, a stream of possession being turned into points by Eric Elwood, who kicked three penalties, and they were still in touch at half-time. The All Blacks, fearful of another defeat, redoubled their efforts. Sweeping midfield passes by Frank Bunce and Lee Stensness launched Wilson and Tuigamala at the Barbarians' defence time and again, and time and again they met with the same determined last-ditch tackling.
It was inevitable that the moveable feast which is Barbarians rugby would eventually yield to the irresistible force, but not before the Baa-Baas had broken out on a number of raids in which Back seemed to have identical twins stationed at every point along the threequarter line. Walker, Stanger and Hastings were all held up inches from the All Blacks' line. Then Scott Gibbs, whose appetite for the fray and flaring acceleration were undiminished by the weight of the All Blacks' tackling, was cut down one time too many when he broke into the All Blacks' 22. This time he did not get up and left the field on a stretcher with a knee ligament injury which will rule him out of Wales' opening Five Nations match against Scotland in January. Just beforehand, Blair Larsen had put Ian Jones away for the try which secured the All Blacks' victory.
It was fitting that Jones, the most heavily burdened of work horses, should have enjoyed his moment of glory in the showpiece fixture. But sentiment is not an emotion associated with the All Blacks, and even with the game safe the tourists' defence remained uncharitable to the last as the Barbarians battered at the door.
Barbarians: Penalties Elwood 4. New Zealand: Tries Dowd, Tuigamala, Jones; conversions: Wilson 2; penalties Wilson 2
BARBARIANS: A Clement (Swansea); T Stanger (Hawick), S Gibbs (Swansea), S Hastings (Watsonians, capt), N Walker (Cardiff); E Elwood (Lansdowne), G Armstrong (Jed-Forest); N Popplewell (Greystones), T Kingston (Dolphin), E McKenzie (Paris Universite-Club), P Johns (Dungannon), O Roumat (Dax), R Wainwright (Edinburgh Academicals), S Quinnell (Llanelli), N Back (Leicester). Replacements: R Howley (Cardiff) for Armstrong 62 min; C Scholtz (Stellenbosch University) for Gibbs 78 min
NEW ZEALAND: J Timu; J Wilson (both Otago), F Bunce (North Harbour), L Stensness, V Tuigamala (both Auckland); M Ellis, S Foster (both Otago); C Dowd, S Fitzpatrick (capt), O Brown (all Auckland), I Jones (North Auckland), S Gordon (Waikato), B Larsen (North Harbour), A Pene (Otago), Z Brooke (Auckland). Replacement: M Brewer (Otago) for Larsen 70 min.
Referee: P Robin (France).
Tour analysis, page 7
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