Spoiling tactics sour celebrations
The Barbarians overcame a slow start to produce an entertaining second half and a 43-19 win over Fiji at Twickenham on Saturday.
Fiji was willing for the first 20 minutes and scored two tries in the last 10 minutes, as the Barbarians eased their collective feet off the gas, but for most part it was a celebration of Barbarians rugby.
They produced seven tries, with some of their second-half scores sure to go into the annals of BaaBaas rugby.
The Fijian scrum was never going to be a match for the powerful BaaBaas pack, but in the line-outs the invitation team initially struggled to find each other and lost plenty of possession.
It was obvious the invitation side did not have a lot of training time, as they played off-the-cuff for most of the game.
Their willingness to entertain was to be commended, but also cost them dearly - as their lack of cohesion saw a number of chances wasted.
And the Fijians can also regard themselves very fortunate that French referee Pascal Gauzere was in a forgiving mood, otherwise they may have had several players in the sin bin inside the first quarter - given the cynical nature of their tactics.
The yellow card eventually came in the 23rd minute - 20 minutes too late some would say.
The romantics would praise Fiji for their tenacity and resilience, which is to be admired, but the constant niggling to provoke the opposition and spoiling are tactics that don't belong in the game.
After the break the accumulative effect of the BaaBaas' dominance and the number of tackles the Fijians were forced to make saw the BaaBaas race clear to a predictable win.
It was a very scrappy start - with forward passes and knock-ons littering the opening stages.
Fiji, pouncing on a BaaBaas mistake, opened the scoring - a sublime chip-kick and a poor tackle by Patrick Lambie combining to gift Asaeli Tikoirotuma the first try. Seremaia Bai added the conversion - 7-0 after just five minutes.
The BaaBaas' error count continued to mount - Lambie producing two more shockers, including kicking a penalty out behind the corner flag - as the Fijians hung on to their early lead.
The BaaBaas couldn't buy a score in the first 15 minutes, with a dodgy TMO call contributing to denying them.
In the 17th minute, from a quick tap after the Fijians were penalised the umpteenth time at the scrum, Frank Halai went over - only to be denied by the TMO again. This time, at least, the match officials made the correct call.
Du Plessis eventually got his try in the 21st minute, when he worked his way over from close range after yet another penalty against the Fijians. Lambie's nightmare continued as he pushed the conversion attempt wide.
And Fiji were reduced to 14 men two minutes later, after Mala Ravulo was sent to the sin bin for a spear tackle. They managed to prevent the BaaBaas from scoring for the entire 10 minutes that the loose forward was on the sideline.
However, in the 37th minute Duane Vermeulen picked up a ball after a Fijian knock-on and while all the other players waited for the referee's whistle he jogged over unopposed. Or, as the BaaBaas themselves described it: he 'ambled over like a bored husband being dragged Christmas shopping'. Lambie added the extras - 12-7.
Du Plessis got his second try just before half-time, sitting pretty at the back of a powerful line-out maul. Lambie hooked the conversion attempt wide - with the BaaBaas leading 17-7 at the break.
Springbok Willie le Roux showed why he is so highly rated, when he produced a moment of sublime magic - a cross-field kick that found Charles Piutau in the left wing. The New Zealand flyer spun out of a tackle and raced over for the fourth try. Lambie finally landed a kick - 24-7.
Jean de Villiers was next to score, after a sublime off-load by Steven Luatua, with Lambie landing another conversion - 31-7 going into the final quarter.
Tom Taylor scored try number five, as the BaaBaas put on display their skills - the move littered with sublime off-loading. Lambie's conversion attempt was wide - 36-7 with 15 minutes to go.
With less than 10 minutes remaining Henry Seniloli got a consolation try for the Fijians, while Duane Vermeulen was yellow carded for a high tackle - which was no worse than any number of Fijian hits.
With two minutes remaining the BaaBaas skipper, De Villiers, got his second try - coming from a sublime chip-kick by Lambie, who added the conversion to make it 43-12.
There was more 'giving' by the TMO and the referee when Alex Rokobaro was awarded a try - despite a clear knock-on and a forward pass - as Fiji finished with some consolation.
Man of the match: Schalk Burger showed his hunger for the game, Jean de Villiers, Frank Halai and Charles Piutau had some decent runs. Dominic Bird was full of energy and Steven Luatua (who also showed off his great skills) helped Schalk Burger add muscle up front. Duane Vermeulen again showed he is so much more than just a brute, while Bismarck du Plessis was involved in so many of the BaaBaas' most promising moves. Vermeulen and Luatua both did enough to deserve the honour, but our award goes to Willie le Roux, who made an impact within a minute of coming on after the half-time break and he continued to provide the sparked that lacked from the BaaBaas in the first half.
Moment of the match: It may not have resulted in a try, but Willie le Roux's run within a minute after he came on after the half-time break provided the spark that has become such legend and lore in BaaBaas history. There was another moment of magic in the 53rd minute, when Le Roux launched a sublime cross-field kick to find Charles Piutau - who spun out of a tackle to go over and score.
Villain: You could look at the Fijian team in general, given the cynical nature of some of their tactics, but Mala Ravulo was the sent to the bin for a dangerous tackle. He was by no means the first Fijian that should have been yellow carded. Duane vermeulen's yelow card was just the referee trying to be kind to the overwhelmed Fijians.
For the Barbarians:
Tries: Du Plessis 2, Vermeulen, Piutau, De Villiers 2, Taylor
Cons: Lambie 4
Tries: Tikoirotuma, Seniloli, Rokobaro
Cons: Bai, Luveniyali
Yellow cards: Mala Ravulo (Fiji, 23 - foul play, spear tackle), Duane Vermeulen (Barbarians, 73 - foul play, high tackle)
Barbarians: 15 Santiago Cordera, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Gavin Williams, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Charles Piutau, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Dominic Bird, 4 Mick O'Driscoll, 3 Matias Diaz, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Guillermo Ruan, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Manuel Carizza, 20 Luke Whitelock, 21 Martin Landajo, 22 Tom Taylor, 23 Willie le Roux.
Fiji: 15 Nikola Matawalu, 14 Adriu Delai, 13 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 12 Levani Botia, 11 Sam Speight, 10 Seremaia Bai (captain), 9 Nemia Kenatale, 8 Netani Talei, 7 Mala Ravulo, 6 Nemani Nagusa, 5 Api Naikatini, 4 Leone Nakarawa, 3 Manasa Saulo, 2 Peni Ravai, 1 Campese Ma'afu.
Replacements: 16 Jerry Naureure, 17 Jerry Yanuyanutawa, 18 Sete Somoca, 19 Maku Koroiyadi, 20 Sam Matavesi, 21 Henry Seniloli, 22 Waisea Luveniyali, 23 Alex Rokobaro.
Referee: Pascal Gauzère (France)
Assistant referees: Luke Pearce, Greg Garner (England)
TMO: David Grashoff (England)