Spencer show takes England's breath away

Playmaker the All Blacks choose to live without runs future Red Roses ragged in a one-man spectacular
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The Independent Online

England 39 Barbarians 52 Half-time: 13-17

England 39

England 39 Barbarians 52 Half-time: 13-17

England 39

Tries: Sackey 2, Erinle, Forrester, Sanderson

Cons: Goode 2, Vesty 2

Pens: Goode 2

Barbarians 52

Tries: Reihana 2, Sailor 2, Spencer, Halstead, Russell 2

Cons: Reihana 6

Attendance: 31,253

Apart from the number crunchers, who needs warm-up matches when a nine-month season edges towards June and swaps a scrum cap for a sun visor? The Lions claim, dubiously, that they benefited - apart from financially - from last week's dishonourable draw with Argentina at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff and yesterday England did not take a great deal of comfort from being outplayed by the Barbarians, who won by six goals and two tries to four goals, a try and two penalties.

With 21 players in the Lions squad this was a shadow England who were warming up for the Churchill Cup, minus cigar and brandy. In the annual competition, designed to boost the game in North America, England play Canada and if successful face either the United States or Argentina for the trophy. The Pumas seem to be everywhere.

Despite the end-of-term feel to this match, which still attracted an audience of 31,200, there were still a couple of exam papers to be taken: England to enhance their career prospects and the Barbarians to protect their reputation after a heavy defeat by Scotland. Yes, Scotland.

So Bob Dwyer, the Australian coach, fielded his strongest Baa-Baas team. It included at No 10 the former All Blacks show-pony Carlos Spencer. He is no longer considered good enough for New Zealand but Northampton are paying him a fortune for his services from next season. He is also still wanted by the Maori and will return to New Zealand to prepare for their lip-smacking Lions match.

On yesterday's evidence Spencer, who will sell a few season tickets at Franklin's Gardens, can cause the Lions considerable problems.

King Carlos, as he was known when he was strutting his stuff in Auckland, had an impressive return to Twickenham, running through his entire repertoire of tricks to inflict on England a far more damaging defeat than was probably good for them.

The loss through injury of both props, Micky Ward and Mike Worsley, meant the scrums were uncontested in the second half, which did not exactly stem the Barbarians' flow. Leading 17-13 at half-time they demolished England with a devastating four-try spell early in the second half.

Spencer was instrumental in creating their first try after seven minutes, a huge pass enabled his fellow Northampton Saint Bruce Reihana to score. England's experiment of playing the Wasps wing Tom Voyce at full-back was not a conspicuous success.

England took matters seriously enough not to forgo kicks at goal and after Andy Goode landed a couple of penalties, Voyce looked all at sea as Wendell Sailor went through the No 15 like an icebreaker through a breadstick.

It didn't get any better for Voyce, who at times looked like Frank Spencer, and he was found wanting again when Carlos finished a long-range counterattack for a 17-6 lead.

Three minutes before the interval Paul Sackey, the pick of England's three-quarters, showed tremendous pace and strength to score a stunning try from 70 yards. With 13 tries in the match andSailor a constant threat, Sackey's try was still the pick of the crop.

It enabled England to restart with only a four-point deficit and they turned it into a 20-17 lead a minute into the second half when Goode's break put Ayoola Erinle away. England's feeling of superiority lasted less than a minute.

Spencer's response was a brilliant break which laid on a second try for Reihana and England were torn apart. The pace and experience of a combination of New Zealanders, South Africans and Australians was too much for the budding Red Rose team.

Brent Russell created a try for fellow Bok Trevor Halstead before Sailor crashed through Andy Gomarsall and Louis Deacon for a try at the posts. At this point the referee Stuart Dickinson said to Pat Sanderson, the England captain: "Your players are concentrating on whingeing rather than playing the game."

No sooner had Sanderson taken the message on board than Russell ran in two more tries as the Barbarians passed the half-century mark.

To England's credit they went down fighting, adding some respectability to the score with three tries in the last quarter. The outstanding Sackey got his second, replacement James Forrester got one and the last word from the whingeing Poms was delivered by skipper Sanderson.

England: T Voyce (Wasps); P Sackey (Wasps), A Erinle (Wasps), J Noon (Wasps), J Simpson-Daniel (Gloucester); A Goode (Leicester), A Gomarsall (Gloucester); M Worsley (Harlequins), G Chuter (Leicester), M Ward (Newcastle), L Deacon (Leicester), T Palmer (Leeds), C Jones (Sale), H Vyvyan (Saracens), P Sanderson (Worcester, capt). Replacements: L Mears (Bath) for Worsley 53; R Morris (Northampton) for Ward 15; S Hooper (Leeds) for Palmer 71; J Forrester (Gloucester) for Jones 65; P Richards (Wasps) for Gomarsall 56; S Vesty (Leicester) for Goode 60; M Tait (Newcastle) for Sackey 74.

Barbarians: B Russell (South Africa); W Sailor (Australia), T Castaignède (France), T Halstead (South Africa), B Reihana (New Zealand); C Spencer (New Zealand), M Robinson (New Zealand); T Smith (Scotland), M Regan (England), C Visagie (South Africa), S Shaw (England), S Boome (South Africa), C Krige (South Africa), S Chabal (France), J O'Connor (Ireland). Replacements: R Ibanez (France) for Regan 60; A Lo Cicero (Italy) for Visagie 65; A J Venter (South Africa) for Boome 40; S Sititi (Samoa) for Chabal 70; B Redpath (Scotland) for Robinson 56; D Humphreys (Ireland) for Spencer, 74; M Burke (Australia) for Castaignède 62.

Referee: S Dickinson (Australia).