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Late Penalty Denies Ireland XV In Gloucester

Late Penalty Denies Ireland XV In Gloucester

If Declan Kidney wanted a competitive workout for his Ireland team ahead of the summer tour to New Zealand, he certainly got it against the Barbarians at Kingsholm on Tuesday evening.

The Match – As It Happened

A side deprived of the services of its Leinster representatives gave it their all but were just edged out by a late Felipe Contepomi penalty, going down 29-28 after a lively non-cap encounter.

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In truth, it was a game played between two almost scratch sides and the error count and lack of cohesion reflected that but the workout will prove invaluable for Ireland even if the result will be a source of frustration.

After all, Ireland will expect no favours when they travel to the home of the Rugby World Cup holders and a partisan Kingsholm was an ideal atmosphere in which to test themselves.

The Barbarians, somewhat cannily, included several players with Gloucester connections within their ranks and, as a result, were most definitely the home side in the eyes of the supporters.

The world famous invitational outfit thrived on this and showed a dogged determination that was sadly lacking in their heavy defeat by England last Sunday.

There perhaps was not the showboating Harlem Globetrotter style of some Barbarians matches. In fact, there was some real tetchiness on display at times.

This felt like a 'real' international and the pragmatic decision by Barbarians captain Mick O'Driscoll, the retiring Munster lock, to take the decisive three points on offer just a couple of minutes before time was not a surprising one.

It was nip and tuck all the way. As soon as one side took the lead, the other hit back. There was never more than a score in it.

The early exchanges saw some fierce tackling from the Irish defence as the Barbarians sought a chink of light courtesy of some slick handling and offloading.

The green defensive line held out but it was severely tested when former Leinster star Contepomi initiated a well executed run-around move which faltered a few metres short of the line when Iain Balshaw lost possession in the tackle.

However, the Barbarians were not to be denied as Mike Tindall and Mamuka Gorgodze made good ground to establish excellent field position, enabling Paul Sackey to fire a long pass out to Balshaw who crossed in the left hand corner.

Contepomi, facing his regular rival Ronan O'Gara from his days in ireland, added an excellent conversion and Ireland trailed 7-0 after 12 minutes.

However, they were quickly back on terms as the Barbarians became victims of their own ambition.

Seizing on turnover ball in the Baa Baas' 22, Craig Gilroy had only half a metre of space near the right touchline but twisted and spun and fought his way to the line. O'Gara landed an excellent conversion.

Back came the Barbarians. Tindall was clearly enjoying himself back on his home turf. His powerful surge was halted just short of the line but the offload found Italian international Cornelius Van Zyl, who was unstoppable from that range, and the Baa Baas had a 12-7 buffer.

Ulster flyer Gilroy once again provided the spark as Ireland responded in style. He outstripped Tindall down the right flank before finding John Muldoon in support.

The flanker had room to run but also the good sense to offload to the supporting Keith Earls who crossed unopposed. O’Gara added the extras and brought his side level again.

The parity was shortlived. After Peter O'Mahony and Benoit August were lectured for a scuffle, Sackey caught the Irish defence napping with a quick tap and put on the afterburners to sprint clear. Contepomi's conversion made it 19-14.

The Baa Baas were clearly dead set on making a better fist of things than they had at Twickenham at the weekend and were denied a fourth try when Balshaw was held up over the line after another burst by Tindall.

Declan Kidney's men finished the half on the back foot but escaped further damage despite more adventure from the visitors.

The half-time team talk would be an interesting one as Conor Murray and O'Gara had really been living on scraps of possession although the uncapped Gilroy, for one, had made the most of what he had been given.

The second half would be a question of whether Ireland could slow down the Barbarians and secure enough possession to gain the ascendancy and turn this one around.

The response was immediate as a powerful drive from the pack softened up the defence before Murray and O'Gara combined to put Simon Zebo over in the corner. O'Gara's touchline conversion was immaculate.

However, if Ireland thought the Barbarians were now going to roll over, they were mistaken as ill-discipline conceded valuable territory.

Under pressure, the defence was solid but not solid enough and the roof was almost lifted off Kingsholm as home favourite Tindall smashed through a tackle and reached over the line for a hugely popular try. Contepomi converted to nudge his side back in front – 26-21 – after 57 minutes.

Ireland were stung into action and Gilroy, once more, was heavily involved. His surge down the right flank made the initial inroads and, several phases later, the winger finished the move in front of the famous Shed. The peerless O’Gara again added the extras for a 28-26 lead.

However, perhaps riding the wave of emotion that threatened to engulf Kingsholm as the Gloucester contingent made popular exits, the Barbarians had the final word.

Patiently working their way into the Irish 22, they set up a central attacking position and an Irish hand crept illegally into the ruck.

Contepomi stroked home the winning penalty and despite a late Irish rally, the Barbarians held on to clinch a hard-fought one-point win.

Referee: Jérôme Garces (France)