An expectant 65 000 fans turned out at Twickenham yesterday to witness the Barbarians beating the All Blacks for the first time since that famous match back in 1973. Bryan Habana scored a hat-trick as the Baa Baas won 25-18.
The match was played more like a Test match than an exhibition, but reputations were on the line so nobody took too many risks. New Zealand scored tries through Ben Smith and Anthony Boric, but it was Springbok speedster Habana who stole the show.
“It hasn’t quite sunk in yet. They were probably some of the easiest scores I’ve had. New Zealand haven’t conceded a try on their last two tours to Europe so to score three is a real bonus,” he said.
Skipper Victor Matfield was pleased to come out on top: “We watched a little bit of that game last night and to be part of something so great is awesome. We had a lot of fun but went out there and played like professionals.
“The guys are very happy. It’s been one of the best weeks we’ve had as professional rugby players. We played for each other. We put our bodies on the line to play for the traditions the Barbarians stand for.”
Mat Giteau was outstanding once again, as were centres Jamie Roberts and Jaque Fourie. Unfortunately the ball didnt head in Baa Baas right wing Joe Rokocokos direction much, but he enjoyed the opportunity, and the Haka.
“I didn’t stare face to face with the boys, I just veered off and looked to one side and the other side. It was just intense, something I haven’t experienced, but a good experience,” he said.
“I’m glad I’m part of the history of Barbarians rugby, they’ve won against the All Blacks and I can talk to my kids about it. We just had an awesome week, socialised really well and got to know each other. All we wanted to do was bring a bit of attitude.”
The second-string New Zealanders were disappointed with the result, but now head home after a successful tour.
“It is different to playing a Test match, but you still like to win these games,” said captain Richie McCaw. “We went into our shells in the second half. It is an experience to learn from and a disappointing way to finish the tour,” he added.
Despite the large crowd being fairly subdued for most of the match, there was a great sense of occasion and the spirit and togetherness shown by the players and coach Nick Mallet at the end of the match was good to see.
Man of the Match, Habana, summed it up nicely.
“The Barbarians take us back to what rugby is really about – the friendship and camaraderie. This game was a fantastic spectacle.”