Barbarians 29 Ireland 28
Ireland warmed up for their forthcoming tour of New Zealand with a 29-28 defeat at the hands of the Barbarians in a competitive and entertaining match at Kingsholm.
The Irish were deprived of their Leinster players – resting following their defeat in Sunday’s RaboDirect PRO12 final – but despite their absence, a better performance would have been expected.
The Kingsholm crowd of 11,654 were firmly behind the Barbarians as the invitation side contained a number of players with Gloucester associations and they were deserved winners being the more competitive side throughout.
Barbarians had the better of the opening exchanges and should have taken an early lead but Cedric Heymans failed to provide Paul Sackey with a scoring pass with the try-line at the wing’s mercy. However the invitation side continued to camp in the opposition 22 and took a 10th-minute lead.
Mike Tindall, the home crowd favourite, made a half break and from the ensuing ruck the ball was moved wide for Sackey to send former Gloucester star Iain Balshaw over for a try in the corner which Felipe Contepomi converted with a splendid kick.
Stung by the reverse, Ireland responded and from their first incursion into the Barbarians 22, Craig Gilroy finished strongly for the try which captain Ronan O’Gara converted to tie up the scores.
Georgian flanker Mamuka Gorgodze and Tindall were the most impressive players during the opening quarter and they provided some powerful running to set up the Barbarians’ second try for Benetton Treviso lock, Cornelius van Zyl.
Back came Ireland with their second try when Gilroy produced a stunning burst down the right flank to evade both Balshaw and Tindall and set up a try for Keith Earls. O’Gara converted to put his side in front for the first time.
Surprisingly for a game involving the Barbarians there was a flare-up amongst the forwards which resulted in a warning for French hooker Benoit August and Irish number eight Peter O’Mahony.
Barbarians regained the lead after 28 minutes when, following a penalty award just inside the Irish half, the alert Sackey caught Ireland’s defence napping and raced away for the try which Contepomi converted.
Barbarians nearly had their fourth try of the half but Balshaw was held up over the line by desperate Irish defence, although they still led 19-14 at the interval.
Within five minutes of the restart, Ireland had regained the lead. A clever pass from O’Gara gave Simon Zebo a chance to outflank a hesitant Sackey for the try which O’Gara converted.
The Gloucester crowd then had two moments to savour. They first gave Balshaw a huge ovation as he was substituted and moments later they roared as Tindall crashed through the Irish defence for a try which Contepomi converted.
The lead changed hands once again as the impressive Gilroy received a long pass from Earls for an easy try which O’Gara again converted.
Then, with three minutes remaining, Barbarians were awarded a penalty in the Irish 22 and for the first time in the match, a kick at goal was chosen and Contepomi was successful to win the match.