The Wallabies beat the Barbarians 40-36 in an entertaining fixture at Twickenham on Saturday, writes SIMON BORCHARDT.
The Baa-Baas led 22-21 after 57 minutes before the frantic nature of the game took its toll and the Wallabies scored three tries against tiring opposition.
But the invitational team found their second wind, thanks to the injection of their replacements, and hit back with two tries to set up a thrilling finish.
Three minutes after the full-time hooter, they tapped a penalty and attacked again, but the Wallabies turned over possession and kicked the ball out to give new coach Michael Cheika a win in his first match in charge.
While all eyes were on halfbacks Quade Cooper and Will Genia, who were playing their first international matches of the year, it was 20-year-old flanker Sean McMahon who made the biggest impact for the visitors after coming off the bench early in the game. He carried the ball strongly throughout and was rewarded for his efforts with a second-half try. Tevita Kuridrani was his team's best back and a constant threat on attack.
Colin Slade was outstanding for the Barbarians at flyhalf, with fellow Kiwis Francis Saili and Frank Halai impressive at inside centre and right wing respectively. Juan de Jongh had a quiet match in comparison, while most of the South Africans on the bench didn't get as much game time as they would have hoped for, although Marnitz Boshoff had enough in which to score a late try and kick two conversions. Nineteen-year-old Sharks prop Thomas du Toit was brought on early in the second half and made a good impression.
This was a typical Barbarians game, full of high-risk running rugby.
The Baa-Baas made their intentions clear early on when they turned down a shot at goal and kicked for the corner. They set up an excellent driving maul from the lineout that almost resulted in a try, and then came close to scoring from a penalty, when scrumhalf Tomás Cubelli kicked the ball over his head and it was knocked on over the tryline by a chasing teammate.
The Barbarians continued to dominate possession and were rewarded minutes later when quick, flat ball saw Halai score in the right-hand corner. The winger almost got a second soon after but couldn't collect a Saili grubber.
The Wallabies worked their way back into the game, twice kicking penalties into the corner and setting up driving mauls. Neither was very effective, but eventually the pressure told and Sam Carter scored a converted try.
The Barbarians hit back when Adam Thomson won a turnover and a few phases later took an accurate pass from Saili and dived over in the left-hand corner.
The Wallabies then took a 14-12 lead late in the half when Benn Robinson scored, and the loosehead prop came within inches of getting another when he reached out for the line, moments after Kuridrani had also come close.
Kuridrani did get his try, early in the second half, when he threw a dummy, left Dominic Bird for dead, and dived over under the posts. But the Barbarians responded immediately when they won a turnover from the restart and Saili chased down his kick ahead.
Slade kicked the conversion and then added a 50m penalty to give his side a one-point lead as both sides turned to their benches.
The Wallabies took charge when Rob Horne scored after a good break by Matt Toomua, and Bernard Foley cantered over after Israel Folau had intercepted a wayward pass in his own half.
But then Nick Cummins scored a memorable try against his former teammates, and that was followed by Boshoff's to set up an exciting last five minutes.
Barbarians – Tries: Frank Halai, Adam Thomson, Francis Saili, Nick Cummins, Marnitz Boshoff. Conversions: Colin Slade (2), Boshoff (2). Penalty: Slade.
Wallabies – Tries: Sam Carter, Benn Robinson, Dominic Bird, Rob Horne, Bernard Foley, Sean McMahon. Conversions: Quade Cooper (3), Bernard Foley (2).
Barbarians – 15 Tim Nanai-Williams, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Francis Saili, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Tomás Cubelli, 8 Steve Luatua, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Adam Thomson, 5 Alastair Kellock, 4 Dominic Bird, 3 Angus Ta'avao, 2 James Parsons, 1 Matt Stevens.
Subs: 16 Mo Schwalger, 17 Thomas du Toit, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Heinrich Brüssow, 20 Matias Alemanno, 21 Sarel Pretorius, 22 Joaquin Tuculet, 23 Marnitz Boshoff.
Wallabies – 15 Israel Folau, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Matt Hodgson (c), 6 Scott Higginbotham, 5 James Horwill, 4 Sam Carter, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Saia Fainga'a, 1 Benn Robinson.
Subs: 16 James Hanson, 17 James Slipper, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Will Skelton, 20 Sean McMahon, 21 Nic White, 22 Bernard Foley, 23 Christian Leali'ifano.
Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images