Stand-in captain Shane Horgan and Jamie Heaslip grabbed two tries apiece as Ireland secured a comfortable 39-14 victory over the Barbarians at Kingsholm on Tuesday, ensuring a winning send-off for the extended squad ahead of the summer tour and Churchill Cup.
FRIENDLY MATCH: Tuesday, May 27
IRELAND 39 BARBARIANS 14, Kingsholm, Gloucester (Att: 10,800)
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Tommy Bowe, Shane Horgan 2, Jamie Heaslip 2; Cons: Paddy Wallace 4; Pens: Paddy Wallace 2
Barbarians: Tries: Craig Newby, Pedrie Wannenburg; Cons: Peter Hewat 2
Not the perfect send-off but an encouraging one nonetheless. A return to winning ways – albeit in a non-cap game – was exactly what was required ahead of the upcoming summer tour to New Zealand and Australia.
The positives will far outweigh the negatives as Michael Bradley and Niall O’Donovan review the video of Ireland’s first ever triumph over the Baa Baas, after defeats in 1996 and 2000.
Certainly the Barbarians were lacking in match sharpness, they look disorganised at times and poor handling hindered them throughout the 80 minutes, but you can only beat what is in front of you and Ireland did so in business-like fashion.
To do so without shipping any serious injuries is another fillip for the Irish management – especially when you considering that back in 2000 when the Baa Baas claimed a 31-30 win at Lansdowne Road, Ireland lost Brian O’Driscoll, Girvan Dempsey, Geordan Murphy and Jeremy Davidson to injury.
Due to a bereavement, O’Driscoll was a late withdrawal for this Kingsholm clash and his place in Ireland’s midfield went to Gavin Duffy. Shane Horgan stood in as team captain.
That back-line readjustment failed to unsettle the Irish and they went in front after just five minutes.
Shane Jennings did well to keep the ball in play on the left wing, Paddy Wallace spun a lovely pass out for Tommy Bowe to ghost onto – Duffy made the decoy run – and with the Barbarians’ midfield split open, Bowe was able to step his way past Sosene Anesi and get over for the try.
Wallace converted and added a quick penalty goal to edge Ireland 10-0 ahead as a Barbarians side that included recent Leinster favourite Ollie Le Roux struggled to get to grips with the game.
Too many times the Baa Baas’ ball carrier was isolated and lacking in support.
On the plus side, their half-backs Stephen Larkham and Michael Claassens looked lively, their scrum was solid and Gloucester’s own Lesley Vainikolo did look dangerous in possession, but Ireland were soon adding to their lead.
Mike Ross’ first involvement with the senior team was ended prematurely by injury in the 18th-minute, with Tom Court, another uncapped player, replacing him.
Stephen Ferris, who put in a vey industrious display, blocked a clearance kick from Larkham and after Jamie Heaslip had mopped up the loose ball, the lively Luke Fitzgerald set off on a jinking run.
The 20-year-old, who looked right at home as an international centre, was involved again a couple of phases later for Horgan’s first try.
A quickly taken lineout caught the Baa Baas napping and when the ball was switched out to the left, Jennings straightened the line brilliantly, Fitzgerald tied up a defender and offloaded snappily for Horgan to power past Morgan Turinui and Craig Newby and crash over the line.
Wallace added the left-sided conversion for 17-0 and things got even better for Ireland in the 25th-minute when Horgan touched down again after a breathless breakaway.
The Baa Baas briefly threatened through Vainikolo but a vital tackle from Heaslip brought the big England winger to ground and Ireland quickly regrouped, helped by a solid night’s work from the recalled Bob Casey.
While David Young’s men remained on the attack, Rob Kearney swooped for an intercept when Claassens passed to his right off a ruck and Bowe was soon charging over the halfway line.
Anesi got back to haul down the Monaghan man, however Ireland kept their heads when the scoring chance almost looked lost and good hands from Kearney again, Rory Best and Wallace helped send Horgan thundering over under the posts.
24-0 in arrears, the Barbarians breathed some life into their game by gaining a good chunk of possession coming up to the half-hour mark.
The crowd roared its approval as Le Roux took the ball on and made a burst forward and his South African colleague Jaco Pretorius, a very balanced runner with ball in hand, began to make in-roads from his centre position.
Despite this, Ireland could have collected a couple more tries before half-time. A great dump tackle by Fitzgerald on Larkham was one of the Irish highlights as the half came to a close.
The men in green missed out on a 39th-minute try when a Horgan kick forward just rolled over the end line before the onrushing Kearney could reach it.
Wallace was also stopped short of the whitewash before Larkham launched a relieving kick downfield and after Ireland had messed up their lineout, New Zealander Newby nipped over for the Baa Baas’ first try.
Pretorius set up the score with a surging run before he was hauled down by Kearney.
A quick recycle gave flanker Newby the time and space to shrug off tackles from Malcolm O’Kelly and Court and make the line, although he injured himself in the act of scoring and had to be taken off.
Peter Hewat tagged on the conversion to leave the Barbarians with a 24-7 deficit to mull over at the interval.
Isaac Boss was whistled up as a lazy runner by referee Andrew Small in the 46th-minute – the Irish scrum half deliberately got in the way of a pass from his opposite number Claassens – and earned ten minutes in the sin-bin.
That was not exactly the start to the second period that Bradley and company wanted but Ireland dug deep while down to 14 men and actually added to their points tally.
Ferris prevented a potential breakaway try when he caught Vainikolo with an excellent tap tackle near the Baa Baas’ ten-metre line.
The value of that was seen five minutes later when Wallace, after some good territory for Ireland, nudged his second successful penalty kick through the posts.
Young began to empty the Barbarians bench and that move backfired on him as Ireland burst through for their fourth try, just short of the hour mark.
It was an excellent score which began with a memorable run by O’Kelly – the giant Leinster lock powered his way through a gap, bringing play out of the Irish 22 and up over halfway.
O’Kelly linked with Fitzgerald before the ball was moved swiftly out to the left. Great hands from Rory Best then put Kearney into space and the tireless Heaslip got over in the left corner after collecting a pass out of the tackle from Bowe.
Wallace’s conversion made it 34-7 and with the result safe, Ireland threw Ryan Caldwell, Neil Best, Girvan Dempsey and Bernard Jackman into the fray.
Best certainly left his mark on Cobus Visagie’s right eye after the pair had an altercation off-the-ball and tempers flared for a while as the Baa Baas’ forwards sought retribution.
Suitably fired up, Young’s side got over for their second try. Stepping inside Duffy, South African Pedrie Wannenburg dotted down to the right of the posts after a lengthy spell of possession for the Baa Baas.
Hewat’s successful conversion was followed by another decent Baa Baas attack yet Kearney, who hardly put a foot wrong all night, nailed Turinui with a fine tackle.
Dempsey, who moved straight to full-back with Kearney switching to the wing, picked up the ball and set off on an excellent run as play began to get looser and looser.
By this stage there were plenty of tired bodies on both sides and Heaslip was unfortunate to be stopped short of the whitewash after Ireland had numbers again out wide on the left.
But the Leinster number 8 did manage to get over for his second try in injury-time, not before a further rejigging of the Irish back-line – Jonathan Sexton came on at out-half with Wallace moving into the centre and Frank Murphy also got a short run-out at scrum half.
For Ireland’s fifth and final try, Jackman pounced on a loose ball near halfway. He set Court charging down the right wing and with Murphy in support, the Leicester clubman wwas able to link with Heaslip for the try in the right corner.
Wallace’s conversion attempt was just short of the uprights, robbing him of his 100% kicking record. Although there was no taking the gloss off what was a pleasing performance for Bradley’s understrength line-up.
TIME LINE: 5 minutes – Ireland try: Tommy Bowe – 5-0; conversion: Paddy Wallace – 7-0; 10 mins – Ireland penalty: Paddy Wallace – 10-0; 21 mins – Ireland try: Shane Horgan – 15-0; conversion: Paddy Wallace – 17-0; 25 mins – Ireland try: Shane Horgan – 22-0; conversion: Paddy Wallace – 24-0; 40+2 mins – Barbarians try: Craig Newby – 24-5; conversion: Peter Newby – 24-7; Half-time – Ireland 24 Barbarians 7; 46 mins – Ireland sin-binning: Isaac Boss (deliberate offside); 54 mins – Ireland penalty: Paddy Wallace – 27-7; 58 mins – Ireland try: Jamie Heaslip – 32-7; conversion: Paddy Wallace – 34-7; 69 mins – Barbarians try: Pedrie Wannenburg – 34-12; conversion: Peter Hewat – 34-14; 80+1 mins – Ireland try: Jamie Heaslip – 39-14; conversion: missed by Paddy Wallace – 39-14; Full-time – Ireland 39 Barbarians 14
IRELAND: Rob Kearney (UCD/Leinster); Shane Horgan (Boyne/Leinster) (capt), Luke Fitzgerald (Blackrock College/Leinster), Gavin Duffy (Galwegians/Connacht), Tommy Bowe (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster); Paddy Wallace (Ballymena/Ulster), Isaac Boss (Ballymena/Ulster); Bryan Young (Ballymena/Ulster), Rory Best (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Mike Ross (Harlequins), Bob Casey (London Irish), Malcolm O’Kelly (St. Mary’s College/Leinster), Stephen Ferris (Dungannon/Ulster), Shane Jennings (St. Mary’s College/Leinster), Jamie Heaslip (Clontarf/Leinster).
Replacements used: Tom Court (Ballymena/Ulster) for Ross (18 mins), Ryan Caldwell (Dungannon/Ulster) for O’Kelly, Neil Best (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster) for Ferris (both 60), Girvan Dempsey (Terenure College/Leinster) for Fitzgerald (63), Bernard Jackman (Clontarf/Leinster) for R Best (67), Jonathan Sexton (St. Mary’s College/Leinster) for Horgan (79), Frank Murphy (Leicester) for Boss (80).
BARBARIANS: Peter Hewat (London Irish); Sosene Anesi (Chiefs & New Zealand), Morgan Turinui (Reds & Australia) (capt), Jaco Pretorius (Stormers & South Africa), Lesley Vainikolo (Gloucester & England); Stephen Larkham (Australia), Michael Claassens (Bath & South Africa); Ollie Le Roux (Leinster & South Africa), Sebastien Bruno (Sale Sharks & France), Cobus Visagie (Saracens & South Africa), Kris Chesney (Saracens), Ross Skeate (Stormers), Craig Newby (Highlanders & New Zealand), David Croft (Reds & Australia), Pedrie Wannenburg (Blue Bulls & South Africa).
Replacements used: Mitchell Chapman (Brumbies) for Newby (half-time), Glen Jackson (Saracens) for Larkham (45 mins), Mark Regan (Bristol & England) for Bruno, Patrice Collazo (Gloucester & France) for Le Roux (both 55), Santiago Dellape (Biarritz & Italy) for Chesney (56), Le Roux for Visagie (67), Andy Gomarsall (Harlequins & England) for Claassens (68), Tyrone Smith (Brumbies) for Hewat (79).
Referee: Andrew Small (England)