Last-gasp Jantjies seals stun­ning Baa-Baas come­back

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Rugby Union - By Ben Coles at Twick­en­ham

El­ton Jantjies’s dropped goal with time al­most up at Twick­en­ham sealed a thrilling vic­tory for the Bar­bar­ians.

Hav­ing trailed since the 15th minute, Jantjies’s wob­bling strike off his left foot put the in­vi­ta­tional side into the lead with less than 90 sec­onds left. The sight of 19½-stone prop Trevor Nyakane cel­e­brat­ing at the end by slid­ing on his knees across the pitch summed up how much it meant. Even Pi­eterSteph du Toit, his nose blood­ied af­ter a nasty col­li­sion, looked elated.

“A lot of peo­ple have asked how can you squeeze an­other game at the end of a long sea­son, but we see this as an honour to be a part of,” said Bar­bar­ians coach Rassie Eras­mus. “But the week is also a re­ward, be­cause it is not as tense, you en­joy it with the boys and can have a few beers.”

The or­gan­is­ers will be hop­ing the low at­ten­dance proves to be a blip. More than 62,000 turned up to Twick­en­ham last year to see the Bar­bar­ians take on the All Blacks but this year’s edi­tion was around half that, de­spite the Bar­bar­ians se­lect­ing 13 lead­ing Spring­boks. Even the Mex­i­can waves were de­layed un­til past the 60-minute mark. In the end the Bar­bar­ians’ come­back in a 10-try spec­ta­cle de­served a far larger au­di­ence.

Ar­gentina, with­out a win since midSeptem­ber, wanted to try out some young­sters and back-ups. Five Un­der-20 play­ers from the sum­mer were se­lected by Mario Ledesma. Af­ter fruit­less trips to Ire­land, France and Scot­land, there were at least some pos­i­tives for the coach to re­flect on head­ing into 2019, even if his side were killed by the whis­tle, giv­ing away 18 penal­ties.

There were two farewells of note. Bar­bar­ians cap­tain for the day Wy­att Crock­ett will re­tire at the end of next year as Su­per Rugby’s most-capped player, while this was also Ir­ish ref­eree John Lacey’s last in­ter­na­tional.

Nei­ther should go look­ing for re­tire­ment ad­vice from Schalk Brits, the for­mer Sara­cen mak­ing a ter­ri­ble fist of keep­ing his feet up de­spite re­tir­ing last sum­mer. It was a per­fectly timed in­side ball from Brits that paved the way for the first try, with Juan Manuel Leguiza­mon pow­er­ing over to score against his coun­try­men in­side three min­utes. Leguiza­mon’s pre-planned cel­e­bra­tion, bowl­ing the rugby ball into a col­lec­tion of his Bar­bar­ian team-mates act­ing as scat­ter­ing skit­tles, re­mind­ing ev­ery­body this was not a fix­ture to be taken too se­ri­ously.

Ar­gentina played along, with Ma­tias Or­lando soon cross­ing to tie up the scores. This was Ar­gentina’s first game since Nico­las Sanchez bid farewell to the na­tional side with his move to Stade Francais, hand­ing Joaquin Diaz Bonilla a rare chance in the No 10 shirt head­ing into next year’s Rugby World Cup.

Sanchez, you ex­pect, will be back for Ja­pan – Ar­gentina have avoided se­lect­ing overseas-based play­ers since 2015 al­though that rule has since been re­laxed – but Bonilla im­pressed with a well-worked kick for Ar­gentina’s sec­ond try, which was scored by Ramiro Moy­ano, along with two early touch­line con­ver­sions.

Pablo Mat­era crossed from close range soon af­ter to ex­tend Ar­gentina’s lead as his side be­gan to out-Bar­bar­ian the Bar­bar­ians, a mazy run cut­ting in­field from Moy­ano set­ting up fel­low wing San­ti­ago Can­cel­liere for the Pu­mas’ fourth score.

Opt­ing for a reg­u­la­tion driv­ing maul might not be in the Bar­bar­ians’ hand­book but the 15-man ver­sion felt ap­pro­pri­ate, and it led to a much-needed re­sponse. Lacey was un­able to dis­cern whether the ball had been touched down, prompt­ing the TMO to con­firm a penalty try for the Bar­bar­ians as Ar­gentina took a 14-point lead into the break.

With the maul work­ing, the Bar­bar­ians rolled out a sec­ond try-scor­ing rum­ble at the start of the sec­ond half. Fly-half Han­dre Pol­lard, nat­u­rally, emerged this time from the bot­tom of the pile, be­fore Ar­gentina re­sponded in kind with a try off their own maul by Ju­lian Mon­toya.

Jantjies, on for Jack De­breczeni, played his part with a low grub­ber kick al­low­ing Damian de Al­lende to dot down, mak­ing it 28-35.

With the Pu­mas fad­ing, a lum­ber­ing run from man of the match Lood de Jager four min­utes from time to score un­der the posts left the game in­trigu­ingly poised at 35-35, be­fore Jantjies dropped back into the pocket to cap off an en­ter­tain­ing come­back.

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