Today’s second game at Thomond Park offered a bit more in attacking, running rugby than the historic women’s game which preceded it.
With roughly 25 minutes on the clock, four tries had been scored, two apiece. Tonga showed all the intent in the early stages of the game and they scored their first try through Ateli Pakalani who was on the end of a sweeping move from the Pacific Islanders. The highlight of that move, however, was the initial break from Maama Vaipulu who stormed through the Barbarians defence.
Just minutes later Tonga stunned their opponents with another score. This time it was Tevita Taufui who crashed over from close range and all of a sudden the brave support in Thomond Park were expecting a trouncing from the Tongans who looked very impressive up until that point.
However, as we know, the Barbarians spirit is unrelenting and they hit back at first thanks to a try from ‘Big-T’ [Taqele Naiyaravaro]. He picked up a delicious cross-field ball and there was no stopping the gigantic Australian who powered through a flailing tackle to dot down for Robbie Deans’ side.
George Bridge needs to take a bow because what he did for the Babaas’ second try was incredible. A teammate of his produced an offload which didn’t go to hand but Bridge produced a one-handed scoop off the deck to pick the ball up and slide over the tryline – pure BaBaas.
This led to just a two point advantage for the Tongans who then fell behind after the Barabrians added a penalty before halftime to take a one point lead into the break.
One of the disappointing aspects of the first half which will worry Munster supporters was seeing Munster prop, James Cronin, leave the field looking in a good bit of pain.
Believe it or not, but the rain actually got worse at the halftime interval and the players were met with what could only be described as monsoon-like conditions as they made their return for the second 40.
There was little of note in the opening 15 minutes of the second half but with 60 minutes on the clock, the game burst back into life when Tonga scored and got back in front thanks to a try from Sione Vailanu who powered through the tackle to get over the try line.
Tonga has a four-point lead but the BaBaas hit back almost immediately and it was Ireland international Jordi Murphy who crashed over at the back of a maul thanks to a powerful drive from the BaBaas. Du Preez added the conversion and the BaBaas were back in front.
The BaBaas then finished the game off thanks to a try from a powerful maul just metres from the Tongan line. A mass of bodies piled over and even the stadium announcer couldn’t figure who touched down but there was back slaps all around.
Just when the BaBaas thought they had it won it, Sione Vailanu got his second try of the game when he powered over in the corner but it was just a consolation score as the BaBaas held on for a 27-24 victory.