Last-gasp Jantjies seals stunning Baa-Baas comeback
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.