Rugby Union: Preacher's prayers answered in the call to Arms

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The Independent Online
Cardiff . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .34

Barbarians. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .36

THE Barbarians, those free spirits of the rugby world, were at it again in Cardiff, preaching their gospel that league points are not paramount in the broader spectrum of the game.

Not that the 9,000 or so spectators needed any convincing. The annual pilgrimage withstood the counter attraction of a full Heineken League programme. The fixture lives on and will continue to do so, not simply as an end of season frolic, because the fancy running was punctuated by some shuddering bump and grind.

Between dominating the line-out Derwyn Jones, all 6ft 10in of him, was involved in a teeth-bared altercation and Colin Laity and Richard Shaw, one of nine new Barbarians, had another dust-up which brought a stern lecture.

The match was for real, for deeper reasons than Cardiff's 10 reserves having reputations to build against 10 internationals. The Baabaas had beaten Cardiff only three times in the previous 10 years and six tries, to their opponents' five, were worth pounds 300 each to Welsh youth rugby. Scottish Amicable, their sponsors, have now donated almost pounds 20,000 to the cause through the try-incentive scheme.

Cardiff trailed from the fifth minute but the Barbarians saw the gap close from 36-22 to two points in the final 15 minutes. They were on such tenterhooks that Luc Evans even attempted a 40-metre penalty in the last three minutes, a safety-first tactic almost unknown in Barbaria.

Several of the Barbarians had worked too hard to contemplate defeat, notably David McIvor, Kelvin Leahy and Gareth Rees. McIvor was seldom far from the ball, nor was Jeremy Guscott, whose languid approach concealed devastating pace in defence. Guscott ran the game without getting his shorts dirty or hair ruffled. He threw enormous passes, once cross-kicked backwards to Cameron Glasgow and, hawk-eyed, sprinted at a barely discernible gap to produce one of two tries for Rees.

Jonathan Sleightholme also celebrated his debut with a try and Cardiff contributed to the delights, none more than Huw Harries, a third choice scrum-half. The two ahead of him, Andy Moore and Andy Booth, were in church at Caerphilly, with Moore getting married and Booth as his best man. Cardiff's good news is that Moore and his bride chose a luxury health resort for their honeymoon, so Harries may have to wait a while for another chance.

Cardiff: Tries Lewis 2, Humphries, Palfrey, Budd; Conversions Hewlett 3; Penalty Hewlett. Barbarians: Tries G Rees 2, Sleightholme, L Evans, Davies, Moore; Conversions L Evans 2, Glasgow.

Cardiff: P Armstrong; S Hill, A Palfrey, C Laity, G Lewis; J Hewlett, H Harries; M Griffiths (K Matthews, 56), J Humphries, P Sedgemore, T Rees, D Jones, G Roberts (J Allen, 35), H Taylor (capt), M Budd.

Barbarians: G Rees (Oak Bay Castaways); A Moore (Edinburgh Acads), J Guscott (Bath, capt), C Glasgow (Heriot's FP), J Sleighholme (Wakefield); L Evans (Bridgend), R Howley (Bridgend), R Shaw (Bridgend), N Leek (Pontypool), J Davies (Neath), S Lloyd (Moseley), L Adamson (Saracens), D McIvor (Edinburgh Acads), T Coker (Harlequins), K Leahy (Wanderers).

Referee: G Simmonds (Taffs Well).