Isa Nacewa grabs the winner as Wales lose at home
An entertaining affair at the Millennium Stadium ended with the Barbarians leaving it late once again to clinch a win for the second week in a row. After embarrassing England late on at Twickenham last weekend, a try from Leinster and Fiji full-back Isa Nacewa left the final score at 31-28 to the invitational outfit.
For the Welsh it was a chance to honour Stephen Jones’ achievement of 100 caps and to assess the form of Gavin Henson, who with just five competitive matches to his name this season was searching for a World Cup spot. There were plenty of good moments for Wales with Aled Brew and Toby Faletau in particular impressing, while George North put in a very good shift after an injury-ridden season. But in the end Wales threw the game away. They were ruined at the scrum in the opening stages but managed to rally enough to take a significant lead going into the closing stages before Willie Mason came on and caused some defensive headaches. Mason’s conversion from League to Union will no doubt take time but his Sonny Bill Williams style offloads were a glimmer of what he will be able to offer Toulon next season.
Regardless of how well the Barbarians performed though, Wales should have won this game. Their opponents, whilst talented, were essentially a scratch side. The duo of Gavin Henson and Jonathan Davies struggled to cope with the power of Seru Rabeni and Mathieu Bastareaud in midfield, and the number 8 Sergio Parisse seemed inspired, but from 28-17 up Gatland had every right to feel frustrated. Wales’ next matches will come in August against England twice and Argentina, before Gatland trims his 45-man squad down to 30, which they will undoubtedly take more seriously, but this was not the start Wales wanted as they build up to the World Cup with three months to go.
Saxons thrash the USA at Franklin’s Gardens
With a final score of 87-8, the England Saxons thrashed the USA in their first match of the tournament, which they look set to run away with. The USA were missing their big names like Chris Wyles and Takudza Ngwenya, but that proved irrelevant as they were annihilated upfront in the scrum. The final total of 13 tries, with an impressive 11 conversions from Rory Clegg, was embarrassing for Eddie O’Sullivan’s men.
In the other match, Canada overcame Italy A 26-12 at Nottingham, scoring three tries and with a big man of the match performance from openside Chauncey O’Toole.
Felipe Contepomi scored 13 points for Argentina as they beat a strong French Barbarian outfit including the likes of Lionel Beauxis, Marc Andreu and Julian Dupuy, with a final score of 23-19 in Argentina.
Toulouse are crowned Top 14 Champions at the Stade de France
Montpellier have proved to be a surprise package in this year’s French championship, but they could not go all the way after losing to Toulouse 15-10 at the final hurdle. They gave the champions quite a scare though, with Guy Noves’ side only taking the lead in the 71st minute thanks to the boot of Nicolas Bézy to clinch their 11th title.
The Rebels are smashed yet again as the Blues slip up
The Stormers ended their Australasian tour on a high in Melbourne, scoring five tries in a 40-3 win. Danny Cipriani was once again absent from the Rebels lineup further fuelling speculation on his future with the club. In all honesty though, he might as well have been involved given the pathetic standard of the Rebels’ defence. Andries Bekker was the unlikely candidate in setting up two tries for the visiting side, with the Cape Town outfit making it three out of four wins on their 2011 tour as they make a late charge for the playoffs.
The Blues lost a valuable chance to close the gap on the Reds at the top of the table going down 16-11 to the Chiefs for their third defeat in a row in Auckland. Luke McAlister had been brought into the side ahead of Stephen Brett and consequently managed to miss five shots at goal. It was a try from the 37 year old veteran Tana Umaga that eventually made the difference for the Chiefs.
Try of the weekend goes to Sarel Pretorious of the Cheetahs. Without doubt the form scrum half in South African rugby right now, his searing pace has been causing havoc amongst defences all season, and it was no different against the Sharks in Bloemfontein. A break from Riaan Viljoen and good hands from another form player in Ashley Johnson set Pretorious on his way for a great try near the posts.
The hero of the weekend is Isa Nacewa for the match-winning score against Wales for the Barbarians. An incredible offload from Mason set Nacewa on his way, and he was flying. His performances this season have been incredible for Leinster, with his IRUPA award a fine reflection of his contribution in the Heineken Cup. The winning try on Saturday was the cherry on top of the cake.
David Skrela is this weekend’s villain for squandering fifteen points in the Top 14 final for Toulouse against Montpellier. He was lucky it didn’t cost them the game.
And for an added bonus, take a look at Gavin Henson being smashed in that Barbarians game:
by Ben Coles