Baa Baas' fast start makes difference against Ireland

Ireland 23 Barbarians 29

A much-changed Ireland team produced an improved second-half display but it was not enough to deny the Barbarians victory at Thomond Park last night.

Efforts from Barbarians captain Xavier Rush, his back-row colleague George Smith and winger Cedric Heymans helped the visitors prevail, with Brock James and the retiring Jean-Baptiste Elissalde kicking the rest of their points.

Former Ireland lock Malcolm O'Kelly also bowed out on a high, playing his final professional game at the home of his long-time provincial rivals Munster, who provided Alan Quinlan and Paul Warwick for the Baa Baas side.

Ireland, who trailed 21-3 at one stage, fought back either side of half-time with tries from home favourites Niall Ronan and Tony Buckley, and captain Ronan O'Gara's right boot closed the gap to six points. But a final-quarter push produced no reward for the men in green as Philippe Saint-André's side held on to take a notable win.

For Ireland coach Declan Kidney, there was much to ponder from this performance as his side build for two heavyweight Tests against New Zealand and Australia, the first of which is against the All Blacks in New Plymouth next Saturday.

For the opening try the lively Pierre Mignoni combined with Rush to send the big New Zealander over. The Baa Baas went further ahead on the stroke of half-time when a handling error saw Ireland botch an attacking situation, leaving Casey Laulala with a 70-yard run to the line to set up Smith.

Ronan hit back with a wonderful team try for Ireland and though a raft of substitutions did little for the flow of the second half, they were definitely on the up and O'Gara fired over the second of two penalty attempts.

But scores were much easier for the Barbarians to come by and just a minute later, James' looping pass created a two-on-one overlap which saw David Smith pass for Heymans to score in the left corner. After that they sat back and were content to soak up the Irish pressure.

Ireland R Kearney (T Bowe, 54); J Murphy, G Duffy, F McFadden, A Trimble; R O'Gara, P Stringer (T O'Leary, 61); M Horan (T Court, 61), S Cronin (J Flannery, 57), T Buckley, E O'Donoghue (M O'Driscoll, 55), D Tuohy (D O'Callaghan, 55), J Muldoon, N Ronan, C Henry.

Barbarians P Warwick; D Smith, C Lualala, S Rabeni, C Heymans (F Estebanez, 64); B James (J-B Ellisalde, 50), P Mignoni (B Kelleher, 50); D Barnes, S Brits (B August, 64), C Johnston (J White, 67), J Thion, M O'Kelly (R So'oialo, 53), A Quinlan, G Smith, X Rush (M Williams, 62).

Referee R Poite (France)