The Barbarians and All Blacks put on a show and played out a 33-21 Kiwi victory in front of a loud Twickenham crowd. This game had everything we have come to expect from a Barbarians game, with length of the field tries and trickery on show from both sides. Here we discover what we learned from the game as we move forward during this Test match window:
Kwagga Smith is for real
Kwagga Smith became a cult hero for the Lions as they marched to the Super Rugby final with his blend of big tackles and strong running. If there was any doubt as to whether he could make it at the next level, that was put to bed as he had a storming performance in this match. Smith was a constant thorn in the side of the All Blacks and he was one of the best on show among some of the best names in world rugby. How he is not in the Springboks squad is a travesty and they are worse without him asserting his considerable presence in their side.
The All Blacks are the masters of half-time adjustments
At the half the Kiwis looked somewhat on the ropes. They had made a lot of uncharacteristic errors and they were down seven points to a Baa-Baas team that seemed to be enjoying everything they were doing. After halftime it was a different story, with the All Blacks being clinical and scoring points in quick succession to put the match out of reach for the Barbarians.
This has long been the problem when teams face the All Blacks. The pressure that the team exerts ramps up throughout the game and in the second half it seems that they are able to punish any mistake with points. Part of this is their strong bench, but there is a belief among the All Blacks that means they do not get disheartened when losing.
Waisake Naholo is a beast (as long as he isn’t put under high balls)
This felt like a game designed for Waisake Naholo where the opposition wanted to run rather than kick and he could get the ball in space to work his devastating magic. If he continues this vein of form, he will be devastating for the rest of the tour. The Northern Hemisphere teams though will kick much more often than the Baa-Baas. This is where Naholo struggles, which could knock his confidence and stop his attacking threat.
The British Lions showed that they were more than willing to test the abilities of the New Zealand back three in the air and there is nothing to suggest that the individual nations won’t try the same tactic.
New Zealand could make two solid international sides
With the bulk of the Baa-Bass being Kiwis this had the feeling of an All Blacks trial game and those on show put on a spectacle. No other team in the world game boasts this many quality players, and this luxury is a major reason that New Zealand can enforce such a strict overseas players rule. No other country has a third and fourth best player in their position ready to step up to the national side at a moment’s notice.
Looking at the depth of New Zealand rugby – be it Super Rugby or the Mitre 10 Cup – must frighten for those national coaches tasked with beating the All Blacks. SO many players were rested for this contest, yet the level of skill on display was still outstanding.
The magic of the Baa-Baas lives on
It seems like every year there are questions about the Barbarians and what the future holds for this rugby union institution. This was especially true this year where the team had a distinctive Southern Hemisphere flavour to it as European teams refused to release their players. However, you have to look no further than Andy Ellis to see the pride that comes with slipping on the famous hooped jersey as he ran about the field like a teenager, loving every minute of action.
Combine this passion with the free-flowing rugby that was on offer and it is easy to see why they are a magical team that can endure for many generations to come.
What did you think of the Barbarians game? Do they still have a place in professional rugby? Let us know in the comments.
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