England 35-26 Barbarians
A triumph of pointlessness
May 30, 2010
Ben Foden feels the force of a tackle
© Getty Images
There was a time that a Barbarians fixture against England at Twickenham would have guaranteed a full house. But the endless cycle of 'big' matches allied to some dismal marketing meant that the ground was barely half full for a game which offered little in terms of excitement or meaning to the 41,000 who were persuaded to part with their cash.
Less than 24 hours earlier there had been a full house for the Premiership final, so expecting many of the same people to turn up again for this was either wildly optimistic or horrendously naïve. Arranging the kick-off for 5pm on a Sunday almost suggested there was a competition to try to find ways of putting people off. This was clearly a game arranged for TV and hang the rest.
With little time to prepare, the Barbarians were sluggish and uninspired and with such a rich history, they always ought to be more than that. England warmed up for their tour of Australia and New Zealand with a 35-26 victory but coach Martin Johnson would have learned as much from a training session in Bagshot. The mercy was that at least no caps were awarded by England.
England started brightly but after easing into a lead that was never going to be threatened by half-time, they took their foot off the gas. Replacements and apathy caused the game to grow ever disjointed, and the Barbarians, collectively puffing like an out of condition heavyweight, were never likely to capitalise on their opposition's weaknesses.
Three of the four tries England scored were in part down to some end-of-season tackling while the fourth by Ben Foden looked for all the world to have been down to a forward pass in the build-up. On another day it might have mattered.
To their credit, the Babas managed to haul England back to within a score near the end. The crowd that remained, mostly brought up to realise what Barbarians rugby should be all about, roundly and rightly booed when Olly Barkley took the three points with the last-play penalty, securing the win but showing few of those actually involved in the match knew what the point was.
Paul Sackey scores for the Barbarians © Getty Images