A hat-trick of tries by Bryan Habana gave the Barbarians their second win over New Zealand at Twickenham yesterday, by 25-18.
No one in this part of the world will be getting particularly carried away – 1973 and all that this wasn't, with only Wales's Jamie Roberts, Leigh Halfpenny and Andy Powell representing the home nations – but that the Tri-Nations-infused Baa-Baas succeeded where Wales, England and France failed will at least be a cause for a little pre-Christmas cheer.
The All Blacks started with something close to a second-string side, the world player of the year, Richie McCaw, apart. The captain's collisions with Schalk Burger – the Springbok flanker notably un-booed by a 63,554 crowd presumably drawn in part from Shepherd's Bush and its environs, where aggrieved Lions fans are few and far between – were a first-half highlight of a match that, if it never quite took off, certainly offered better value for money than anything served up by England recently. McCaw came off at the break.
Habana's tries came from two first-half breakaways – set up by the Australian full-back Drew Mitchell and an intercepted Stephen Donald pass – and a slick second-half move which owed much to the Wallaby fly-half Matt Giteau drawing two men and getting the ball to Morne Steyn. New Zealand scored tries through the wing Ben Smith, in the first half, and the lock Anthony Boric in the second. Donald, Mike Delany, Giteau and Steyn did the rest with their boots, the two All Blacks kicking eight points, the two Barbarians 10.
In the Guinness Premiership, Gloucester beat Newcastle 25-13 at Kingsholm thanks to a try by Charlie Sharples and 20 points – from five penalties, a conversion and a drop-goal – from the sometime Wales fly-half Nicky Robinson. Alex Tait scored Newcastle's try; Rob Miller kicked the conversion and Jimmy Gopperth kicked two penalties. Gloucester's Fiji flanker, Akapusi Qera, was carried from the field with his neck in a brace after receiving extensive treatment.
"He was knocked out," said the Gloucester head coach, Bryan Redpath. "He took a while to wake up, and he has gone to hospital because of the knock he took to his head, but he is talking. He seems fine."
Redpath, inadvertently confirming why the Premiership has become something of a trial for the neutral fan, added: "We had to grind out a win in the right way in conditions that weren't great. Winning is everything – it doesn't matter if you win well or win ugly. I am delighted the boys stuck to it."
At the Madejski Stadium, London Irish drew 16-16 with Worcester. For Irish, John Rudd scored a try and Ryan Lamb kicked three penalties and a conversion. Willie Walker kicked three penalties for Worcester and converted a penalty try. The Warriors have now drawn three Premiership matches in a row.
New Zealand won the first event in the IRB World Sevens calendar in Dubai, beating Samoa – who beat England in the semi-finals – 24-12 in the final. Wales won the Bowl competition; Scotland failed to win a match.