Barbarians know-how bewilders Woodward's reserves

England 36 Barbarians 49
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The Independent Online

Clive Woodward, the England coach, rarely wastes an opportunity to remind us that he can rely on a strength in depth which is the envy of the European nations. He might well be right, but yesterday he, and the 67,000 spectators expecting a routine England victory at fortress Twickenham, were handed a sharp reminder that England's second best are no better than that when faced with a group of players not prepared to be upstaged by a team of youngsters.

Clive Woodward, the England coach, rarely wastes an opportunity to remind us that he can rely on a strength in depth which is the envy of the European nations. He might well be right, but yesterday he, and the 67,000 spectators expecting a routine England victory at fortress Twickenham, were handed a sharp reminder that England's second best are no better than that when faced with a group of players not prepared to be upstaged by a team of youngsters.

England were second best everywhere and - given that most were playing for places on the tour to the United States, Canada and Japan next month, not to mention the possibility of one or two making the senior party to New Zealand and Australia - this was a huge disappointment.

Woodward made no excuses. "We deserved to lose," he said, having witnessed England's first home defeat since New Zealand won here in the 1999 World Cup. "We were beaten by a better side. However, when a team of that experience takes it that seriously, it was always going to be a full-on Test match." What did he expect? An end-of-season jolly? It was far from that; and physical to the end when Jerry Collins flattened Pete Anglesea with a dangerously high tackle.

For the better part of 80 years the highlight of the Barbarians' season was the Easter tour of South Wales, based at the Esplanade Hotel, Penarth, where the cream of the home countries' players gathered, and an invitation was prized second only to an international cap. But the advent of professionalism changed this forever and the Barbarians faced extinction. To their credit, they have adapted and survived. Unable to select exclusively from the best in Ireland and Britain, their teams, like yesterday's, have a strong southern hemisphere influence. The core of the side was five New Zealanders, plus the Fijians Carl Hayman and Aisea Tuilevu, who ply their trade with Otago Highlanders. The whole being led by the redoubtable All Black captain, Taine Randell.

With 359 caps between them, the starting line-up had plenty of experience, and their three unanswered tries in the first 23 minutes left England bewitched and bewildered. With only a snap dropped goal by Dave Walder and trailing by 18 points, England did pull themselves together with tries by Michael Lipman and the first of two by Jamie Noon, enabling them to turn round only six points adrift.

But England were unable to remedytheir first-half shortcomings. The Barbarians were allowed to slip the ball in the tackle too easily, disrupting England's support play and not allowing them to work their possession to danger men, such as Mark Cueto and Dan Scarbrough. Moreover, England too often ran up blind alleys, while the Baa-Baas never let England settle at the scrum.

In the loose there were some delightful touches from Percy Montgomery, the strong-running Tuilevu, and Bruce Reihana, while Randell kept the enforcers grafting at the coal face all afternoon. Noon's perseverance earned him a second touchdown, but tries by Jonathan Bell, Raphael Ibañez and Reihana made it 42-22. Walder and Nick Walshe crossed either side of Franck Tournaire's try, but David Humphreys' conversion of all seven of the tourists' tries only underlined their supremacy.

England: Tries Noon 2, Lipman, Walder, Walshe; Conversions Walder 4; Drop goal Walder. Barbarians: Tries Castaignède, Califano, Robinson, Bell, Ibañez, Reihana, Tournaire; Conversions Humphreys 7.

ENGLAND: D Scarbrough (Leeds); M Cueto (Sale), J Noon (Newcastle), B Johnston (Saracens), P Christophers (Bristol); D Walder (Newcastle), K Bracken (Saracens); M Worsley (London Irish), M Regan (Leeds), P Vickery (Gloucester, capt), A Codling (Harlequins), A Brown (Bristol), M Corry (Leicester), M Lipman (Bristol), C Jones (Sale). Replacements: A Titterrell (Sale for Regan, 55) D Flatman (Saracens) for Worsley, 22; H Vyvyan (Newcastle) for Jones, 55; P Anglesea (Sale) for Corry, 59; N Walshe (Sale) for Bracken, 78; K Sorrell (Saracens) for Scarbrough, 55; S Amor (Saracens) for Christophers, 74.

BARBARIANS: P Montgomery (Newport & South Africa); A Tuilevu (Otago & Fiji), T Castaignède (Saracens & France), J Bell (Ulster & Ireland), B Rheihana (Northampton & New Zealand); D Humphreys (Ulster & Ireland, capt), M Robinson (Auckland & New Zealand); C Califano (Saracens & France), M Sexton (Ulster), C Hayman (Otago & Fiji), A J Venter (Natal & South Africa), M Connors (Northampton & Australia), J Collins (Wellington & New Zealand), S Harding (Otago & New Zealand), T Randell (Otago & New Zealand, capt). Replacements: Barbarians: R Ibañez (Castres & France) for Sexton, 53; F Tournaire (Leicester & France) for Hayman, 53; H Louw (Stormers & South Africa) for Venter, 79; D Edwards (London Irish) for Robinson, 73; F Contepomi (Bristol & Argentina) for Castaignède, 80; D Gibson (Bristol & New Zealand) for Bell, 76.

Referee: I Ramage (Scotland).

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