Wales 28-31 Barbarians, Millennium Stadium, June 4
Wales overrun by Barbarians
June 4, 2011
Barbarians lock Joe Tekori strides through to score
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Isa Nacewa scored a last-minute try as the Barbarians beat Wales 31-28 at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.
The Leinster fullback bagged a brace as the Barbarians ensured that lightning struck twice, the invitational side having beaten England in similarly dramatic circumstances seven days ago.
The pre-match build-up had centred around Gavin Henson's return but the centre was muted in his first international since 2009, as was the reception for the match among a sparse crowd called to celebrate the 130th anniversary of the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU).
Veteran fly-half Stephen Jones won his 100th cap following the union's controversial decision to award the fixture Test status, while most of plaudits will be reserved for several of Wales' youngsters, notably No.8 Toby Faletau, centre Scott Williams and scrum-half Tavis Knoyle.
Wales scored four tries themselves and looked set to sneak home, but the work of George North, Morgan Stoddart, Mike Phillips and Aled Brew was rendered redundant by Nacewa, with skipper Sergio Parisse, lock Joe Tekori and centre Mathieu Bastareaud also on the scoresheet for the Barbarians.
Wales dug themselves a hole in the opening moments, with the Barbarians dominating a series of scrums five metres out. Jonathan Davies, perhaps a little swept up in the occasion, threw a forward pass in the shadow of his own posts and tight-head Carl Hayman set about welcoming Ryan Bevington to the big stage, winning a string of penalties.
The home side survived this early onslaught and snatched the lead on 10 minutes when North stepped inside Doug Howlett for his third Wales try. Henson had provided the scoring pass, an arching lob to the wing that was a yard forward but left alone by the officials. Jones converted before a charge by Bastareaud gave the Baa Baas a sniff, with Howlett just missing out on a cross-kick from Brock James.
Tekori got the Barbarians on the board on 17 minutes with a try gift-wrapped by Phillips. The scrum-half's lazy pass went straight to James, who broke clear and found Joe van Niekerk in support. The former Springbok went for the corner and effortlessly flipped the ball back inside to his onrushing lock.
James' conversion struck the uprights but the lead arrived in good time with a well-worked try to Nacewa. Parisse orchestrated proceedings initially before an excellent dummy by Sebastien Tillous-Borde allowed the Baa Baas to outflank Wales. The pass to the wing found Nacewa, one of three players in a position to round off the score. On this occasion, James' conversion was on target.
Stoddart bit back almost immediately for the hosts thanks to the game's second interception, with Cardiff Blues skipper Paul Tito this time the offending party. James was powerless to stop the Scarlets fullback and with Jones' conversion arrowing over, Wales again had a narrow advantage.
While their scrum was a problem in the opening minutes, the lineout was a thorn in the side for Wales throughout the first-half. Huw Bennett failed to find his jumper on a number of occasions and two poor throws just before the break handed the Barbarians their next try. Paul Sackey had been bundled into touch moments earlier, with Bennett turning the ball over as a looping throw to the tail was knocked-on by an under-pressure Warburton. From the ensuing scrum Parrisse eased over the line, the No.8 enjoying a rock-solid platform at the set-piece. James added the conversion for a five-point lead, which remained intact at the break.
Within five minutes of the second-half kicking off the teams were down to 14 men, Brew seeing yellow for a high tackle on Sackey and Tekori for a ruck infringement on the Barbarians' line. The opening skirmishes again went to the invitational side however, not least because of a shuddering hit on Henson by Seru Rabeni.
The first try of the second-half arrived 13 minutes in and following a long period of Wales pressure. Numerous close-range drives were repelled, not always legally, before Phillips used all of his strength to carry a couple of tacklers across the whitewash with him. Jones' conversion was the difference between the sides at 21-19.
Wales emptied their bench to good effect at the hour mark, with Knoyle, on for Phillips at scrum-half, and Scarlets centre Williams particularly impressive in upping the pace against the tiring opposition. Brew added a full stop with the fourth try, scored from close range after a neat reverse pass from Knoyle.
The Barbarians set up a grandstand finish with a try to Bastareaud, one crafted in Australian rugby league. Willie Mason rode two tackles and popped the ball around the corner one-handed, leaving Iestyn Thomas with the simple job of putting his centre over. Mason's involvement did not end there as the Toulon-bound centre had another offload up his sleeve to set up Nacewa. Parisse got the ball rolling with an excellent pop of his own, but Mason's deft touch out of a double hit gave Nacewa room to manoeuvre and the Wales cover defence could not get close to him.
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