International Rugby

6 Most Famous Barbarians Matches of All Time

Danny CoyleFeatured ColumnistMay 28, 2014

6 Most Famous Barbarians Matches of All Time

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    Andrew Redington/Getty Images

    England take on the Barbarians at Twickenham on Sunday in a game that rugby’s purists always hope will sign the season off with a flourish.

    The Barbarians are over 100 years old and, in this age of professionalism, stand as a towering emblem of the game’s long standing ethos of friendship through sport.

    The Baa-Baas’ free-flowing style of rugby is their hallmark, although the dominance of defence in the modern era makes it harder for the men who run out in black and white hoops to thrill the crowds the way they once did.

    It is also highly unlikely that their off-field antics still measure up to those of tours gone by.

    R.W. Shaw, who represented the club in the 1930s, recalls one post-match shin-dig on barbarianfc.co.uk

    Setting off of fireworks and the riding of a bicycle all on the dance floor were all accepted in the spirit in which these actions were done. I used to conduct the dance band for several years in succession. In retrospect, I cannot understand this as I was timber toned and couldn't play a musical instrument. It is quite amazing what beer can do!

    There have been plenty of on-field pyrotechnics from the world’s best players when they have donned the famous shirt, but the following six games stand out.

2008 vs. Australia, Wembley

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    The Baa-Baas were invited to play the Wallabies at the new Wembley to commemorate 100 years since Australia beat a Great Britain side to win Olympic gold.

    The Wallabies ran out 18-11 winners in a game that had much more of a Test match feel about it, with greats like Richie McCaw, Jerry Collins and Bakkies Botha all packing down for the invitational side.

    Back in 1908 the Great Britain side had been represented by Cornwall, and in a break with the tradition of each Barbarian wearing his own club socks, the side all wore Cornwall socks to mark the occasion.

2007 vs. South Africa, Twickenham

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    Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

    The world champion Springboks finished their year off with a demolition of Wales in Cardiff before arriving at the home of the team they had wrestled the Webb Ellis Cup from just a few weeks earlier.

    They faced a Barbarians team with Jason Robinson playing in his farewell match and a host of other world-class players at their peaks.

    The Baa-Baas bloodied the new world champions’ noses with a 22-5 win in which we saw some of the old magic from Billy Whizz and tries from Australian duo Matt Giteau and Rocky Elsom.

1988 vs. Australia, Cardiff Arms Park

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    The flamboyant Australian side of the 1980s were a perfect match for the free-flowing Barbarians.

    Following the Baa-Baas’ high-scoring victory in 1984, another points fest ensued four years later, this time with the Australians coming out on top.

    David Campese scored a remarkable solo try (at 3:53 in the above video) as the green and gold ran out 40-22 winners.

1990 vs. Wales, Cardiff Arms Park

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    Fireworks were almost guaranteed with the flair jam-packed in the back line for the Barbarians when they took on Wales in 1990.

    Stuart Barnes piloted a three-quarter division housing Jeremy Guscott, Denis Charvet, Jean-Baptiste Lafond, Joe Stanley and David Campese. Each could have done with a ball of his own.

    It was the year of the Barbarians' centenary celebrations and as a mark of respect Wales unusually awarded caps for the fixture.

    Scores were level at half-time after a Welsh fightback to make it 21-21, with all their points coming from full-back and captain Paul Thorburn.

    But the uncapped New Zealander Eric Rush—who was playing as a flanker although he later became famed as a flying wing—scored a try, and the former Welsh schoolboy Barnes added the extras.

    Guscott scored another to seal a famous win.

1984 vs. Australia, Cardiff Arms Park

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    The 1984 Wallabies had established themselves as a legendary team by completing the Grand Slam on their tour of the Home Nations.

    Their unofficial fifth Test against the Barbarians came without the pressure of their previous tour matches, and they turned on the style to beat the Baa-Baas 37-30.

    The game was rammed with flair and adventure from both sides in a classic Baa-Baas match, most notably the try created for Michael Hocker by a young David Campese, who snaked his way upfield in a dashing counter-attack before feeding the centre to score a memorable try.

1973 vs. New Zealand, Cardiff Arms Park

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    The final match of New Zealand’s tour in 1973 went down as the greatest game in Baa-Baas history for the try scored by Gareth Edwards.

    In a move that began with the jinking, stepping Phil Bennett evading a horde of All Blacks as he weaved his way out of his own 22-metre area, the ball passed through the hands of Lions legends JPR Williams, Fergus Slattery, John Pullin and Derek Quinnell before Edwards burst onto his pass to skate for the corner.

    The moment was described by the great Welsh fly-half Cliff Morgan in a piece of commentary that has become as legendary as the score itself.

    The Barbarians won the game 23-11, but the result, over time, has survived merely as a footnote to what has long been regarded as the greatest try ever scored, described by the greatest piece of rugby commentary ever delivered.

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