The Barbarians have scored more points three times in the seven previous editions of this end of season joust, and the invitational club were strong as units and individually. Nevertheless England, shorn of their nine Lions tourists, and a handful of others injured or, like Danny Cipriani, deployed with the Saxons instead, were weaker than a sum of their much-changed parts.
Among a half-dozen first-time starters – albeit no caps were awarded – the hefty centre Jordan Turner-Hall barrelled forward willingly, but the unfeasibly large wing Matt Banahan was only fitfully involved until he outjumped the Baa Baas' Dougie Howlett to catch a cross-kick from Andy Goode, and score a try with 72 minutes played.
This was the third England try in quick succession to feature Goode's boot; he had dabbed high and low near the posts for kick-and-chase scores by Turner-Hall and Tom May in the 57th and 70th minutes. This probably said more about the fading attention to detail by the Barbarians, who had Phil Waugh in the sin-bin for two of the tries and were busy emptying their bench, than English excellence. Still, Goode was entitled a pat on the back for their execution. Before that, the Barbarians led 33-5.
"We're going to have to be sharper next week," said Martin Johnson, the England manager.
"We tell the players international rugby is about consistency of performance, including your workrate when you're not involved."
When faced by a necessarily basic Barbarians defensive line of, say, four forwards, England were unable to play their way though in groups of two and three, interpassing.
They relied either on the more visionary runners such as Delon Armitage to go it alone or others to kick the ball over the top or take contact and hit the deck. In between the Barbarians' first two tries by Iain Balshaw and Chris Jack, there was an arcing break by the England centre Jamie Noon around Glen Jackson. Even this confrontation which was a long way from Usain Bolt versus Asafa Powell, ended with the Baa Baas fly-half preventing a try with a lunging tap-tackle.
England brought on one old stager, Steve Thompson, making his first appearance in red rose and white in three years, for a former Northampton team-mate, Dylan Hartley. The Barbarians afforded two more of England's World Cup winners of 2003, Josh Lewsey and Martin Corry (both pictured here), an emotional farewell on home soil beforethey retire.
Goode dragged a 40 metre penalty kick left of the posts early on, and England were contemplating a scoreless first half until their slow-slow-quick game plan paid off with a try in the 32nd minute. A misplaced Baa-baas line-out went to Lewis Moody and, though England were static at the ruck initially, Danny Care looped a pass to Chris Robshaw on the right-hand touchline and the Harlequins flanker snapped it inside to Ben Foden to score. Foden might have been irked to be on the wing after a season spent at full-back and scrum-half – though he and the Newcastle prop David Wilson will be better for the experience – and his first act was to be ruthlessly scragged by Rocky Elsom, the hero of Leinster's Heineken Cup final win last weekend.
This match might have been set up as Rocky II when the Wallaby No.8 galloped over for the Barbarians' third try in the 42nd minute.
But Schalk Brits the hooker from Western Province, South Africa and – next season – Saracens, stole top billing in the third quarter. Brits prominent in the fourth baa-baas try – Balshaw's second – four minutes later and Ben Blair, who scored 20 points here last month in Cardiff Blues' Anglo-Welsh Cup final victory, converted for 26-5. Then Brits showed his pace– like Brits off a shovel, it was - chased down England's scrum-half Danny Care, who limped off immediately afterwards, and was on for a runaway try of his own the tackling Armitage flipped him on to his back at the crucial moment.
Still the Baa Baas went a healthy 28 points up when Lewsey sent in his fellow centre, Gordon D'Arcy. It must have amused Lewsey that his only obstacles as he scuttled away from a ruck were England's second rows, Louis Deacon and Steve Borthwick. For Borthwick, the ever thoughtful England captain, there was much to ponder.
England: D Armitage; B Foden, J Noon (T May, 40), J Turner-Hall, M Banahan; A Goode, D Care; T Payne (N Wood, 53), D Hartley (S Thompson, 60), D Wilson, S Borthwick (capt), L Deacon (J Haskell, 66), C Robshaw, N Easter, L Moody (S Armitage, 53).
Barbarians: B Blair; D Howlett, J Lewsey (M Catt, 64), G D'Arcy, I Balshaw (R Nasiganiyavi, 49); G Jackson, J Marshall (C Whitaker, 71); C Dermody (Somerville, 66), S Brits (S Bruno, 57), G Somerville (BJ Botha, 49), M Corry (capt), C Jack (P Tito, 64), J Collins, R Elsom, S Betsen (P Waugh, 57).
Referee: R Poite (France).
England: Man-for-man marking
15 DELON ARMITAGE 7/10
Nice flick nearly put Banahan clear; nice break nearly led to a try for Goode; nice tackle nearly led to general bodily trauma for Iain Balshaw. All very nice. Showed why he's on standby for the Lions, and why they might yet benefit from his presence, particularly with a great tackle to stop Schalk Britz scoring in the corner.
14 BEN FODEN 6/10
Is it a wing? Is it a full-back? Is it a scrum-half? Well, it's all three, which is what might make this chap rather super in years to come. First act here, though, was to run into Rocky Elsom, which is never super for anyone except Rocky Elsom. His try was well taken, taking two Baa Baas over the line.
13 JAMIE NOON 6/10
Made a lovely outside break – no, really – but Jackson's tap-tackle took him down. Replaced at half-time by Tom May, who scored a decent try.
12 JORDAN TURNER-HALL 6/10
What Bill McLaren used to call a "solid citizen", the mighty-ish Quin was suckered for Elsom's try. Took his own well, on the end of a kick from Goode.
11 MATT BANAHAN 6/10
Apart from the odd Samoan or an individual or two in the crowd at the Army v Navy, Twickenham can't have seen so many tattoos on one chap too often. England took 25 minutes to launch him in midfield, and the Baa Baas sank him. Rumbled into gear after that and took his try with a surprisingly light touch.
10 ANDY GOODE 6.5/10
Usual mix of clever turns and alarming lapses, charged-down kicks and excellent touch-finders. Kicking at goal started badly but resurrected itself and he made tries for Turner-Hall, May and Banahan with chip kicks. Hence the half point.
9 DANNY CARE 7/10
The chap who got the call as a Lions replacement, Mike Blair, had a stinker in Rustenburg. The man who didn't looked good, setting up Foden's try with a long pass. Will listen out for snapped bones or twanged ligaments in South Africa... presuming his own leg is OK. Replaced by Paul Hodgson, who also looked lively.
1 TIM PAYNE 6/10
Strong effort in the scrums – the Barbarians might not exactly place a premium on the pack, but getting a shove on is getting a shove on, after all. Exposed a bit in defence and taken off for Nick Wood with 25 minutes to go. Wood did good things as England came back into the game.
2 DYLAN HARTLEY 6/10
Charged about like he usually does in the last 10 minutes; this being his first Test start though, and it being hotter than a coyote's tuckus out there, he was risking (literal) burn-out. Steve Thompson replaced him for the last 20, completing a remarkable comeback from serious injury. First line-out went astray. Rust?
3 DAVID WILSON 7/10
Very highly-rated prop who, after a season in the rather large shadow of Carl Hayman, is leaving Newcastle for Bath. Showed how strong he is in the first half, apparently pushing the Baa Baas' pack back on his own. Showed in the second half that he can play a bit with the ball, too.
4 STEVE BORTHWICK 6/10
Line-outs were fine, but they're always likely to be so against a scratch side. Spent a lot of time shouting at those around him, so much so that he might be described as having ended up being a bit "pony". That's not rhyming slang – the frustrated skipper was just a little hoarse.
5 LOUIS DEACON 6/10
First England start for a couple of years. Anonymous in the way any lock can be, which means he didn't necessarily do anything wrong. He just did whatever it was he did in the messier parts of the pitch. James Haskell came on for the last 10 minutes. Curious how he's fallen from view since signing for Stade Français.
6 CHRIS ROBSHAW 6/10
Premiership player of the year had a chance to learn a lot from Jerry Collins. Clever play for Foden's try. Solid.
7 LEWIS MOODY 6/10
At one point Balshaw ran at him, shouting 'Not 10, ref, not 10!' and looking for the penalty. Moody duly mullered him, and duly gave away the penalty. Hmm. Steffon Armitage replaced him for the last half-hour and looked almost as sharp as his brother.
8 NICK EASTER 6/10
Seemed curiously disengaged at times – even managed to drop the second-half kick-off.
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