Leonard signs off with a rare flourish

England 12 Barbarians 32
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The Independent Online

It would be safer to regard this match as a farewell party for Jason Leonard rather than a flexing of England's third string muscle. There were some good players on show, but they were good before yesterday. The fixture could also be called a money-spinning exercise. But it would be better remembered as Leonard's last bow.

It would be safer to regard this match as a farewell party for Jason Leonard rather than a flexing of England's third string muscle. There were some good players on show, but they were good before yesterday. The fixture could also be called a money-spinning exercise. But it would be better remembered as Leonard's last bow.

The old warhorse marked it as such even before the kick-off, stepping out of the tunnel in isolation, the rest of the Barbarians side holding back to give him centre stage. The 72,000 crowd at the ground where he made so many of his 114 appearances for England rose to salute him. Within five minutes he had repaid them by opening the scoring. The brilliant New Zealand scrum-half, Mark Robinson, created space before popping up a perfect pass for Leonard, admirably up in support, to crash over with Marcel Garvey clinging to his broad back and Hugh Vyvyan, England's captain for the day, trying in vain to hold him up over the line.

"I think when Hugh realised who it was he was trying to stop from scoring he eased up and let me touch down," said Leonard afterwards. "It has been a great day and it was good playing in front of such a good crowd." He stayed on the pitch for more than an hour, finally leaving in the 68th minute to one last standing ovation.

The winger Shane Horgan crossed for the second Barbarians try just three minutes later, winning a chase for his fellow Ireland international Brian O'Driscoll's chip ahead. But for all their attempts to play expansive rugby the Barbarians found England awkward to circumvent. Not that the England coach Clive Woodward would agree.

When Leonard breached the England defence Woodward said: "I was less than amused that they had scored, and from one of our line-outs. There were some harsh lessons to be learned." A couple of those would be best taken on board by the Newcastle No 10, Dave Walder. Twice he telegraphed passes, twice the ball was intercepted, the first time allowing the South African backrower Bobby Skinstad, fresh from a breather in the sin-bin, to gallop 30 metres for the Barbarians' fourth try. Their third score had come from the former All Black Bruce Reihana, the Premiership's leading scorer this season with 13 tries for Northampton.

The Ireland lock Malcolm O'Kelly needed video confirmation of his try in the 76th minute after he had been buried under a pile of bodies, although not before he had got the ball over the line. England's only points came from the boot of Walder, who landed four out of five penalties.

There was precious little to glean from the match, but the Newcastle centre Jamie Noon played well. "I was pretty pleased with the way Noon went today," Woodward said.

Not that Noon would get on to the tour of New Zealand and Australia later this week were Bath's Mike Tindall or Leeds's Phil Christophers to fail fitness tests because, as Woodward explained: "There is an established pecking order," and the Wasps pair of Stuart Abbott and Fraser Waters are ahead of Noon in that.

Meanwhile Sale's hooker, Andy Titterrell, will was passed fit to tour despite having stitches under his eye in the Wildcard final against Leicester, and Woodward added the Wasps prop Tim Payne to his squad as cover for Bath's David Flatman, who will still travel.

ENGLAND: Penalties Walder 4. BARBARIANS: Tries Leonard, Horgan, Reihana, Skinstad, O'Kelly; Conversions Humphreys 2; Penalty Humphreys.

ENGLAND: M Horak; P Sackey (both London Irish), J Noon (Newcastle), K Sorrell (Saracens), M Garvey (Gloucester); D Walder (Newcastle), N Walshe (Sale); M Worsley (Harlequins), M Regan (Leeds), R Morris (Northampton), M Cornwell, A Brown (both Gloucester), D Hyde (Leeds), H Vyvyan (Newcastle, capt), A Hazell (Gloucester). Replacements: J Dawson (Harlequins) for Morris,

39; P Buxton (Gloucester) for Hazell, 72; D Scarbrough (Leeds) for Sackey, 50.

BARBARIANS: T Castaignède (Saracens & France); S Horgan (Leinster & Ireland), B O'Driscoll (Leinster & Ireland), N Grey (NSW Waratahs & Australia), B Reihana (Northampton & New Zealand); D Humphreys (Ulster & Ireland), M Robinson (Northampton & New Zealand); J Leonard (Harlequins & England), A Oliver (Otago Highlanders & New Zealand; capt), C Visagie (Saracens & South Africa), M O'Kelly (Leinster & Ireland), M Andrews (Newcastle & South Africa), O Finegan (ACT Brumbies & Australia), T Randell (Saracens & New Zealand), A Vos (Harlequins & South Africa). Replacements: M Sexton (Ulster) for Oliver, 71; G Feek (Auckland Blues & New Zealand) for Leonard, 68; O Magne (Montferrand & France) for Vos, 52; B Skinstad (Newport Gwent Dragons & South Africa) for Randell, 40; N de Kock (Western Stormers & South Africa) for Robinson, 57-59 & 67; D Traille (Pau & France) for Horgan, 75; M Burke (NSW Waratahs & Australia) for Castaignède, 40.

Referee: N Whitehouse (Wales)

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