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Dublin: 9°C Wednesday 2 December 2020
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Schmidt's Ireland lose out to entertaining Barbarians in Limerick

The invitational side were deserved winners at Thomond Park.

Ireland 21

Barbarians 22

Murray Kinsella reports from Thomond Park

THE BARBARIANS LIVED up to their tradition despite the slippery conditions in Thomond Park to secure a 22-21 win against Joe Schmidt’s Ireland XV, one that was made up exclusively of Leinster and Ulster players.

Barbarians celebrate as Alex Cuthbert scores a try The Barbarians celebrate Alex Cuthbert's second try. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The Kiwi head coach won’t have been pleased with the inaccuracies and sloppiness that held his side back, with their performance having a natural but disappointing end-of-season feel to it.

The Baa-Baas were entirely worth their win, as the likes of Toulon’s David Smith, former All Black Joe Rokocoko, Leinster fullback Zane Kirchner and Georgian lock Konstantin Mikautadze all entertained a Limerick crowd of 16,110.

Perhaps most concerning of all for Schmidt, though, was the offence that saw Jack McGrath sent to the sin bin. The Leinster loosehead prop was yellow carded for a knee in the back of Mikautadze and may now face a citing.

McGrath failed to return after his 10-minute spell in the bin either side of half-time, Schmidt opting to leave Michael Bent on the pitch.

More positively, Schmidt witnessed a handful of strong individual performances, none more so than that of try-scorer Chris Henry. Back in an Ireland jersey for the first time since his heart scare in November, the Ulster openside was impressive.

The tourists dominated possession early on, leading to a fifth-minute try for Welshman Alex Cuthbert. Two long passes from Jimmy Gopperth and Zane Kirchner allowed Toulon’s David Smith to free Cuthbert on the right.

Alex Cuthbert scores a try despite Craig Gilroy Cuthbert crosses for his early Barbarians try. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Schmidt might look at Gilroy’s decision to bite in on Smith when Collie O’Shea had the Baa-Baas wing covered as crucial, though he soon made up for the error with a characteristic finish.

After a frustrating series of scrums, Gilroy took a switch pass from Eoin Reddan and stepped past the desperate tackles of Ruan Pienaar and Shane Jennings, captaining the Barbarians against many of his former Leinster teammates.

Madigan’s conversion meant Ireland led, Gopperth having been wide with his following Cuthbert’s try.

The Barbarians did their best to entertain thereafter as rain in Limerick made the ball tough to handle, their loop plays and offloading threatening repeatedly. Smith on the left wing was living up to the Baa-Baas tradition with some sizzling footwork too.

It was Schmidt’s Ireland who enjoyed territorial advantage, however, attempting to force their way over from a pair of close-range mauls. The Barbarians pack was dogged in their defensive effort though, frustrating the Irish pack.

That sense of annoyance spilled over in the 33rd minute when Jack McGrath kneed the excellent Toulon lock Konstantin Mikautadze in the back after he had held up an Irish mauling effort within striking distance of the Toulon line.

Referee Greg Garner consulted his TMO and then binned McGrath for an offence which may well see him cited.

Ian Madigan Ian Madigan carries the ball into contact for Ireland. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Ireland further try-scoring opportunities in the half, first Ulster centre Luke Marshall thinking he’d burst through to finish before Garner called play back for a knock-on, then Deon Fourie producing a big turnover penalty after Ireland failed to support O’Shea as he carried strongly in the shadow of the uprights.

The Barbarians continued to show more in attack early in the second period, with Leinster fullback Kirchner coming up with a magnificent solo try that might have left the province’s fans wondering where this player had been for the last two years.

Kirchner stepped inside the tackle of Madigan on halfway all too easily, then proceeded to drop a delightful chip over the head of the covering Kearney, gathering on the bounce to dive in. Gopperth’s conversion tool the Baa-Baas to a 12-7 lead.

A late bone-shuddering and slightly late hit from Jennings on Madigan soon after left the Ireland out-half needing attention, while Joe Rokocoko became increasingly involved with his showy passing and footwork.

Alarmingly out of character was the Barbarians’ decision to kick a 54th-minute penalty at the posts, but Gopperth took his chance to extend their lead to eight points.

With both benches beginning to empty heading into the final quarter, it was Ireland who retained their organisation to come up with what seemed an important score. After replacement out-half Jackson, on for Marshall with Madigan moving to 12, forced Kirchner to carry into touch with a lovely kick, the Irish maul finally fired.

Simon Easterby’s pack was patient from seven metres out, shearing off the left of the initial contact point and powering over through the impressive returning openside Chris Henry. Madigan’s conversion from wide on the left brought Ireland back to within a point at 15-14.

Zane Kirchner scores a try Kirchner scored a spectacular second-half try. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

But that wasn’t to prove the launch pad for an Ireland comeback win, as the Barbarians continued to hit ferociously and chase down kicks and loose ball.

Indeed, the conjured a third try in the 73rd minute, one that seemed inevitable from the moment Ireland attempted to run the ball out from their own tryline and Dave Kearney’s pass went to deck.

The Baa-Baas scooped up possession, hammered at the tryline over the course of almost 20 phases, Cuthbert the one to dive in at the end. Gopperth popped over the conversion to leave the invitational side deservedly in control at 22-14.

A try from Jackson, who dove over in the left corner, allowed Madigan to convert in the final minute of play, but time was against Ireland and they came up short in their attempts to overhaul the Baa-Baas lead.

Ireland scorers:

Tries: Craig Gilroy, Chris Henry

Conversions: Ian Madigan [2 from 2]

Penalties:

Barbarians scorers:

Tries: Alex Cuthbert [2], Zane Kirchner

Conversions: Jimmy Gopperth [2 from 3]

Penalties: Jimmy Gopperth [1 from 1]

IRELAND: Rob Kearney; Dave Kearney, Colm O’Shea (Cian Kelleher ’73), Luke Marshall (Paddy Jackson ’52), Craig Gilroy; Ian Madigan, Eoin Reddan (Luke McGrath ’63); Jack McGrath (YC ’33) (Michael Bent ’43), Richardt Strauss (Rob Herring ’55) (reversal ’58), Tadhg Furlong (Mike Ross ’63); Devin Toner, Dan Tuohy (Ben Marshall ’63); Robbie Diack (Michael Bent ’40 to ’43) (Jordi Murphy ’55), Chris Henry (Diack ’77), Jamie Heaslip (capt.).

BARBARIANS: Zane Kirchner, Alex Cuthbert, Joe Rokocoko (Gio Aplon ’61), Wynand Olivier, David Smith; Jimmy Gopperth, Ruan Pienaar; Roberto Tejerizo (YC ’40), Deon Fourie (David Ward ’79), Adam Jones; Rodrigo Capo Ortega (Nathan Hines ’8), Konstantin Mikautadze; Shane Jennings (capt.), Gerhard Vosloo, Ryu Koliniasi Holani (Saimone Taumoepeau ’46) (George Smith ’52).

Replacements not used: Matias Diaz, Tomas Cubelli, Tusi Pisi.

Referee: Greg Garner [RFU].

Attendance: 16,110.

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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