Irish coach Joe Schmidt insisted during the week that places in the World Cup squad were still up for grabs. After yet another defeat to the Barbarians at Thomond Park last night, he will go home for another re-think after a performance he described as “a bit inaccurate.”
Even though last night’s selection was far from any of those he had chosen for the RBS Six Nations clashes, there were some interesting choices.
For instance, in a totally Leinster/Ulster mix — Munster players were ruled out for obvious reasons and Connacht’s front-runners for another — he wanted to see some of the guys who were unlucky not to have been chosen during a fruitful winter.
Video by: Shaun Cronin
He saw his team do their best to adhere to a structured game plan and the Barbarians do everything to disrupt it by pretty heroic defending and smart first half counter-attacking before producing a lot more class after the break.
Some of the Irish number won’t have particularly happy memories of some badly missed tackles, not least — and surprisingly — Dave Kearney, with Barbarians wing Smith causing particular problems.
And Schmidt didn’t get the win he craved, with Ireland collapsing in the second half as both camps made a number of changes.
Ireland eventually ran out of quality to replace those tired legs and were left to reflect on another loss to the invitational side.
Those on the fringes won’t be particularly heartened by the outcome as Schmidt gives even more thought to the make up of his World Cup squad.
For Barbarians skipper Shane Jennings it was, however, a memorable evening and the best possible way to head into retirement.
Former Leinster colleague Shane Horgan said: “it was a great way to bow out for Shane and thoroughly deserved.”
Two-try Barbarians hero Alex Cuthbert said the win was the product of very hard work in a short space of time.
“Great bunch of lads and we showed up there in a difficult match against a tough team.”
It wasn’t a particularly great opening half, more grunt and grind than exhibition stuff, and Ireland’s dominance was basically forged through the pack, even after they lost Jack McGrath to a yellow card leading up to the interval.
The Barbarians came storming out of the blocks with a try in five minutes from Alex Cuthbert, tellingly sent in on his own wing side by his opposite number David Smith. Ireland took their time to draw level and push in front despite putting pressure on the Barbarians line for several minutes. Ultimately, Craig Gilroy produced the perfect piece of footwork off a scrum move to grab the try that Ian Madigan converted for a 7-5 lead.
They lost the initiative early in the second half with a try/conversion combo for Leinster duo Zane Kirchner and Jimmy Gobberth. Barbarians captain Jennings made an unpopular decision for Gobberth to go for goal and stretch the lead to 15-7, but it was indicative of the way the invitational side warmed to their task.
Ireland did hit back in the 60th minute with a try from comeback man Chris Henry after a rolling maul proved too much for the Barbarians and Madigan converted to slim the lead down to just a single point.
It didn’t last, with Cuthbert finishing off a spell of pressure for the Barbarians in the 73rd minute and Gobberth added the conversion off an upright to push the lead out to eight points at 22-14.
Paddy Jackson saved some of the blushes when he crashed over for a 79th minute try but despite Madigan’s drop kick conversion, there wasn’t enough time to stop the Barbarians from recording another memorable victory.
R Kearney (UCD/Leinster), D Kearney (Lansdowne/Leinster), C O’Shea (Clontarf/Leinster), L Marshall (Ballymena/Ulster), C Gilroy (Dungannon/Ulster), I Madigan (Blackrock/Leinster), E Reddan (Lansdowne/Leinster), J McGrath (St Mary’s/Leinster), R Strauss (Old Wesley/Leinster), T Furlong (Clontarf/Leinster), D Toner (Lansdowne/Leinster), D Tuohy (Ballymena/Ulster), R Diack (Malone/Ulster), J Heaslip (Dublin University/Leinster), captain; C Henry (Malone/Ulster).
R Herring (Ballynahinch/Ulster) for Strauss (47), Strauss for Herring (injured, 57), P Jackson (Ulster) for L Marshall (63), M Ross (Leinster) for Furlong, J Murphy (Leinster) for Henry, B Marshall (Leinster) for Tuohy, L McGrath (Leinster) for Reddan (66), M Bent (Leinster) for J McGrath (67), Cian Kelleher (Lansdowne/Leinster) for O’Shea 75.
Z Kirchner (Leinster and South Africa), A Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues and Wales), J Rokocoko (Bayonne and New Zealand), W Olivier (Montpellier and South Africa), D Smith (Toulon), J Gopperth (Leinster), R Pienaar (Ulster and South Africa), R Tejerizo (Tucuman and Argentina), D Fourie (Lyon), A Jones (Cardiff Blues and Wales), RC Ortego (Astres and Uruguay), K Mikautadze (Toulon and Georgia), S Jennings (Leinster and Ireland, captain), R K Holani (Panasoni Wild Knights and Japan), G Vosloo (Toulon).
N Hines (Clermont and Scotland) for Orytega (7, injured), S Taumoepeau (Castres and New Zealand) for Holani (45), G Smith (Lyon and Australia) for Vosloo (50). D Ward (Harlequins) for Tejerizo (58) G Aplon (Grenoble and South Africa) for Rokocoko (60) Referee. G Garner (England)
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