Twenty-four hours on from a pulsating Gallagher Premiership final and immediately following a resounding win for England women over the Barbarians, Twickenham played host on Saturday afternoon to the England and Barbarians men’s sides.
A youthful and inexperienced England team, under the stewardship of U18 head coach Jim Mallinder, came out on top in an end-to-end game with the invitational side, ultimately recording a 51-43 victory.
We have run the rule over the 23 England representatives and rated each individual’s performances below.
- Simon Hammersley – 6
There were a couple of moments early on when Hammersley and his back three colleagues found themselves out of position, but the soon-to-be Sale full-back grew into the game well. He grabbed a try at the end of a flowing England attack and looked more comfortable dealing with the high balls and sideline-to-sideline approach of the Barbarians the longer the game went on.
- Piers O’Conor – 5
A quieter performance than O’Conor would have liked, with not too much of England’s attacking success coming when they moved the ball to the right wing. He chased with energy but was also caught out of position on a couple of occasions, something which shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise given he plays his club rugby at outside centre and full-back.
- Joe Marchant – 8
Marchant looked very comfortable in England’s high-speed back line, with quick hands capable of linking play and impressive energy and tackling ability leading the defensive line. He demonstrated his remarkable footwork, too, dancing inside and beating three men in very little space in the build-up to Hammersley’s first half try.
- Johnny Williams – 7
A consummate performance from Williams, who pressured the Barbarians midfield in defence, as well as carrying and distributing well at inside centre. He didn’t shine individually like Marchant or Marcus Smith either side of him, but it was an encouraging display nonetheless.
- Josh Bassett – 6
A busy display from Bassett, who worked hard and was on hand to swoop on loose balls. He was clinical in transition, scoring a try from an error forced by Williams’ powerful tackling, although he was also comfortably burnt by the considerable speed of Filipo Nakosi.
- Marcus Smith – 9
A nice blend of control and endeavour from Smith, who looked equally comfortable kicking the corners and keeping England in the Barbarians half, as he did taking the ball to the line, making late decisions and executing clinically. Grabbed a try of his own, which included shifting the defence with his eyes and a show and go, set up another for Hammersley, and was on form with his goal-kicking, nailing all nine of his kicks in the game.
- Alex Mitchell – 8
One of England’s standouts on Sunday, Mitchell delivered tempo from the base and his support-running caught out the Barbarians on a number of occasions. His box-kicking and standard kicking from hand was accurate and rarely failed to find space or allow his chasers to contest. The scrum-half also made several good defensive reads, including once which set up Alex Dombrandt’s first half try.
- Ross Harrison – 5
Harrison was consistently being marched back at the scrum by a fired-up John Afoa, although he helped make up for that with a busy display in the loose. His impact clearing out was valuable for England, who prospered when they could catch the Barbarians defence still retreating.
- Tom Dunn – 6
The hooker was consistent at the lineout and made a number of powerful carries in the tight, refusing to be put down. Like Harrison, he worked hard at the breakdown in order to deliver England’s back row and back line quick ball.
- Ehren Painter – 4
Painter held up well in his first scrum but unfortunately it largely went downhill from there for the young prop. He struggled to stay up and on his feet against Joe Marler at the set-piece and when he did, he tended to be marching backwards under pressure from the experienced Barbarians tight five. Brighter days will come for the tighthead over the next few years.
- Elliott Stooke – 7
The Bath lock showed up well in the less glamorous areas of the game, positively impacting the lineout on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, as well as tackling manfully and driving Barbarians ball-carriers backwards. A handling error was unfortunately a slight blemish on an offensive performance that was quieter than his set-piece and defensive effort.
- Josh Beaumont – 6
A solid performance from Beaumont, whose display was arguably made to look slightly less impressive by the industry of his teammate in the row, Stooke. His line-speed and work chasing was noteworthy, although he wasn’t quite able to have the success as a ball-carrier that he usually does at Sale.
- Alex Dombrandt – 9
Despite the flanker’s impressive physicality, which he showcased on numerous occasions, it was his subtle lines back against the grain and work rate to pop up on players’ shoulders as a support-runner that set him apart from the pack. The Barbarians defence struggled to read, track and stop Dombrandt and he was a consistent source of front-foot ball for England, whilst his speed of feet and thought to break and unleash Williams for his try should have Eddie Jones taking notice.
- Ben Curry – 8
You could be forgiven for thinking it was regular England international Tom, not Ben, at Twickenham un Sunday, with his twin brother displaying all of the line-speed and physicality in the tackle that England fans have become used to seeing in the seven jersey. He had a fair amount of joy disrupting the Barbarians’ ball security at the breakdown, too.
- Teimana Harrison – 7
The Northampton number eight showed good hustle on Sunday and was regularly scrapping away at the contact area and securing loose balls. Like Dombrandt, he helped give England front-foot ball, although he was more prevalent as a one-out runner or on the pick and go, using his footwork to generate power into the contact, than running incisive lines.
- Tommy Taylor – 6
The hooker didn’t have a whole lot to do after replacing Dunn, but he did connect successfully with his one lineout and made a couple of physical tackles.
- Beno Obano – 6
Obano made a few powerful tackles and carries after replacing Harrison, although it would have been interesting to see him in a longer spell and whether or not he could have helped the struggling scrum.
- Paul Hill – 6
England still struggled in the scrum later in the game, although Hill’s experience did help to stabilise the unit. Unfortunately for Painter, the number of knock-ons and scrums diminished later in the game.
- Will Spencer – 6
The lock showed impressive speed and work rate as a support-runner following his second half arrival, as well as contributing at the lineout.
- Tom Ellis – 6
Limited ability to influence the game, although threw himself around in defence as the Barbarians attempted to finish strongly.
- Ben White – 6
The scrum-half wasn’t quite able to have the attacking impact that Mitchell did, with England spending much of his time on the pitch seeing out the game, rather than attacking with the endeavour of earlier in the contest.
- Callum Sheedy – 6
Didn’t have too much opportunity to influence the game after his late arrival.
- Ben Loader – 6
Watch: Mark McCall and Brad Barritt speak to the press after the Premiership final
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