It is increasingly difficult to love these annual end-of-season Barbarians jamborees, which have all the romance and passion of an arranged marriage. But every now and again, a player with an eye for the main chance presents the best of himself to the watching world and leaves the audience, pretty much exhausted by eight months of thud and blunder, craving a little bit more.
Marland Yarde, the young wing from St Lucia who is just beginning to make his way in Premiership rugby, did that, and unless everyone's eyes were deceiving them, he will win a full England cap sooner rather than later. This much was clear after 40-odd seconds when, on being freed close to the touchline by the outside-half Freddie Burns, he beat the fearsome Fijian back Timoci Nagusa in a bare minimum of space before finding Burns with a sweet return pass that allowed the Gloucester man to open the scoring.
There was more to come at the start of the second half when Yarde went hunting off his wing and cut a sliderule angle to maximise a clever little wraparound move involving Burns and his half-back partner Richard Wigglesworth. He left Casey Laulala for dead – no mean feat in itself, for the New Zealander is nobody's fool when it comes to the one-on-one tackling duties – and finished in style.
Thanks to the recent pyrotechnics of the much-garlanded Wasps wing Christian Wade and the unnervingly rapid Gloucester back Jonny May, the 21-year-old Yarde has the lowest profile of the red-rose brat pack. It will not stay that way for long. He is bigger and more powerful than his rivals – "Closer to 100kg than 90 kg, which means he can bump people off as well as run round them," said the national coach Stuart Lancaster after this display – and the size-muscle-sinew differential should push him to the head of the queue for full Test honours. It may happen for him inside a fortnight, for England meet Argentina in the foothills of the Andes as their next agenda item.
Lancaster pronounced himself happy with his side's performance in what is always an awkward fixture against a scratch side who, by their very nature, are unlikely to do any of the things the England analysts might expect of them. Right from the start, the red rose forwards established superiority at the set-piece, where Alex Corbisiero, back in business after a nasty brush with a career-threatening knee problem, performed with all the skill, intelligence and astuteness of old. This gave Burns the time and space he craved, and he duly shut the Baa-Baas out of the contest before the interval.
The invitation side barely fired a shot until late in the piece, when Schalk Brits and Elliot Daly registered tries that could not conceivably have been more different – the first of them a ho-hum mauling effort from close range, the second of them an eye-catching strike from distance. But England had scored heavily in the half-hour after the restart and if the Baa-Baas do not front up earlier, and for far longer, against the Lions in Hong Kong this coming Saturday, that sponsor-driven fixture could be an embarrassment for all concerned.
England XV M Brown (Harlequins) (K Eastmond (Bath) 51); C Wade (Wasps), J Joseph (London Irish), W Twelvetrees (Gloucester), M Yarde (London Irish); F Burns (Gloucester) (J May (Gloucester) 64), R Wigglesworth (Saracens) (H Thomas (Exeter) 47); A Corbisiero (London Irish) (J Marler (Harlequins) 56), R Webber (Bath, capt) (D Paice (London Irish) 60), D Wilson (Bath) (H Thomas (Sale) 47), J Launchbury (Wasps), D Attwood (Bath) (K Myall (Sale) 47), T Johnson (Exeter), M Kvesic (Worcester), B Morgan (Gloucester) (V Vunipola (Wasps) 47).
Barbarians: E Daly (Wasps); T Nagusa (Montpellier) (R Varty (DeA Tigers) 60), C Laulala (Munster), M Tindall (Gloucester, capt), T Ngwenya (Biarritz); J Hook (Perpignan) (N Evans (Harlequins) 64), D Peel (Sale) (D Yachvili (Biarritz) 50; A Lo Cicero (Racing Metro) (D Jones (Ospreys) 45), M Rees (Scarlets) (S Brits (Saracens) 45), J Johnston (Harlequins) (P James (Bath) 64), J Hamilton (Gloucester) (D Mumm (Exeter) 56), M Wentzel (Wasps), A Zanni (Treviso), J Poff (Wasps), I Harinordoquy (Biarritz) (S Jones (Wasps) 60).
Referee L Hodges (Wales).
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