Chris Ashton scored a hat-trick as the Barbarians recorded a 63-45 win against England at Twickenham on Sunday. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
England were far from full-strength as a number of their players were rested for this exhibition match, while several key members of Eddie Jones’ squad for their tour of South Africa were still away on club duty in the Premiership final between Saracens and the Exeter Chiefs.
That said, based on this performance, England have plenty to work on ahead of the first Test against the Springboks in two weeks time. Their breakdown deficiencies, so horribly exposed against Ireland, France and Scotland in the Six Nations, were again visible; while defence also remains an on-going problem.
In typical Barbarians fashion, they put on a show from the start, with England castaway Ashton and his Toulon teammates Joshua Tuisova, Semi Radradra and Malakai Fekitoa leading the Baa-Baas’ onslaught against his former Test teammates. Ashton, in his first outing back at Twickenham since trading Saracens for Toulon a year ago, scored a first-half hat-trick with two of those coming in the opening 10 minutes and also came up with an assist for Finn Russell’s five-pointer.
The Toulon partnership between Ashton, Tuisova and Radradra was responsible for the opening score of the game. Radradra launched an attack from inside the Baa-Baas’ 22 and released Tuisova down the right flank, but the winger gift-wrapped the ball and presented it to Ashton, who did the customary ‘AshSplash’ dive.
The duo worked their magic again, when Tuisova offloaded to Ashton, who put in an audacious chip kick over Elliot Daly from 3m out and regathered beautifully to score his second. And when former All Black Victor Vito dotted down in the 12th minute, the Baa-Baas opened up a 21-0 lead.
England clawed their way back into the contest by scoring four tries before the break, including a brace from centre Piers Francis. But Ashton’s third touchdown and Russell’s try put the invitational team 35-28 up at half-time.
They extended that lead when Radradra darted through a gaping hole at the back of a lineout, but England pulled 10 points back soon after with a penalty along with a converted try, reducing the deficit to four with about 25 minutes remaining.
But just as England thought they had the Barbarians on the ropes, the invitational side scored the best try of the match. After making a fine linebreak, Fekitoa offloaded to Tuisova, who then passed to Loni Uhila. The prop was tackled short of the line, but executed a perfect pop-pass off the ground to lock Sitaleki Timani for the score.
Jonny May would proceed to score England’s sixth effort, but late tries by Greig Laidlaw and Vito sealed the big victory for the Baa-Baas.
The legendary Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, who captained the Barbarians, lined up and nailed the final conversion to sign off his career on a high.
England – Tries: Elliot Daly, Piers Francis (2), Zach Mercer, Joe Launchbury, Jonny May. Conversions: George Ford (6). Penalty: Ford.
Barbarians – Tries: Chris Ashton (3), Victor Vito (2), Finn Russell, Semi Radradra, Sitaleki Timani, Greig Laidlaw. Conversions: Russell (7), Laidlaw, Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe.
England – 15 Elliot Daly, 14 Jonny May, 13 Henry Trinder, 12 Piers Francis, 11 Mike Brown, 10 George Ford (co-c), 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Zach Mercer, 7 Tom Curry, 6 Chris Robshaw (co-c), 5 Joe Launchbury, 4 Elliott Stooke, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Jack Singleton, 1 Joe Marler.
Subs: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Ellis Genge, 18 Nick Schonert, 19 Josh Beaumont, 20 Mark Wilson, 21 Dan Robson, 22 Danny Cipriani, 23 Denny Solomona.
Barbarians – 15 Chris Ashton, 14 Joshua Tuisova, 13 Semi Radradra, 12 Josh Matavesi, 11 Niyi Adeolokun, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Rhodri Williams, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe (c), 5 Sitaleki Timani, 4 Ultan Dillane, 3 John Afoa, 2 Benjamin Kayser, 1 Denis Buckley.
Subs: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Loni Uhila, 18 Ramiro Herrera, 19 Joe Tekori, 20 Nili Latu, 21 Greig Laidlaw, 22 Luke McAlister, 23 Malakai Fekitoa.