Daragh Small reports from Thomond Park
DONNCHA O’CALLAGHAN led a figure of eight tribute to Anthony Foley before kick-off, and Barbarians got their first international victory of the year against Tonga at Thomond Park.
There were four Irish debutants on the Barbarians starting 15 with James Cronin – who left injured after ten minutes – Brian Scott, Quinn Roux and Jordi Murphy all packing down up front. O’Callaghan and John Muldoon, meanwhile, were sprung from the replacements bench.
Two tries from Ateli Pakalani and Fotu Lokotui gave Tonga an early lead, before Taqele Naiyaravoro and Vince Aso hit back.
It was 15-14 to Barbarians at half-time and Sione Vailanu added a third try for Tonga but Jordi Murphy cancelled that out before Andy Ellis scored off another rolling maul, but Vailanu scored again for the Tongans to reduce the final deficit to three.
The Tongans had made quite the opening statement.
Tevita Taufui and Nafi Tuitavake were involved as Pakalani burst through to dot down near the left touchline. Captain Sonatane Takalua kicked an impressive conversion and his side led 7-0.
Munster prop Cronin hobbled off early on and with Barbarians struggling to gain a foothold, Tonga broke for a second try – Lokotui scoring on this occasion, with just 11 minutes on the clock.
But Naiyaravoro bounced his way through the Tonga cover to score down the left wing in the 19th minute.
Baa-Baas full-back George Bridge was next to go over and Robert du Preez’s first successful conversion attempt left it 14-12 after 23 minutes.
And then four minutes before the break du Preez slotted a penalty for a 15-14 half-time lead.
O’Callaghan, who was playing what was likely his last professional game in the Limerick venue, came on at half-time.
The Tongans scored again when second-half replacement Vailanu popped up in the right corner to touch down with 17 minutes remaining before Murphy and Ellis sealed the win for Barbarians as Vailanu’s try proved nothing more than a late consolation.
ScorersBarbariansTries: Taqele Naiyaravoro, George Bridge, Jordi Murphy, Andy Ellis
Conversion: Robert du Preez 2/4
Penalty: Robert du Preez 1/1
Tries: Ateli Pakalani, Fotu Lokotui, Sione Vailanu (2)
Conversions: Sonatane Takalua 2/3, Kali Hala 0/1
Barbarians: George Bridge (Crusaders); Taqele Naiyaravoro (Waratahs) (David Smith (Castres) ’65), Richard Buckman (Highlanders), Harold Vorster (Lions), Vince Aso (Hurricanes); Robert du Preez (Stormers), Nic Stirzaker (Rebels)(Andy Ellis (Kobelco Steelers) ’16); James Cronin (Munster) (Jacques van Rooyen (Lions) ’10), Akker van der Merwe (Sharks) (Adrian Strauss (Bulls) ’51), Brian Scott (Munster) (Ruan Smith (Toyota Verblitz) ’40); Geoff Parling (Munakata Sanix Blues) (Donncha O’Callaghan (Worcester Warriors) ’40), Quinn Roux (Connacht) (Sam Carter (Brumbies) ’45); Jordi Murphy (Leinster), Simone Favaro (Fiamme Oro) (John Muldoon (Connacht) ’51), Willie Britz (Sunwolves).
Tonga: Ateli Pakalani; David Halaifonua, Nafi Tuitavake, Tevita Taufui (Fetuli Paea ’14) (Penikolo Latu ’51-60, 69), Cooper Vuna; Kali Hala, Sonatane Takalua (Suke Tuumotooa ’71); Paea Faanunu (Latu Talakai ’45), Sione Lea (Maile Ngauamo ’63), Ben Tameifuna (Halani Aulika ’51); Leva Fifita (OneHunga Kaufisi ’51), Steve Mafi; Dan Faleafa, Fotu Lokotui, Maama Vaipulu (Sione Vailanu ’51).
Referee: Frank Murphy (IRFU)