Mercer and Marchant score as Barbarians beat All Blacks XV 35-31



There were 10 tries scored at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium as the Barbarians beat the All Blacks XV 35-31, with tries scored by England internationals Zach Mercer and Joe Marchant.

As you would probably expect, this game had a little of that Barbarians flair. In the opening minutes, Joe Marler had kicked the ball downfield to much applause, Teddy Thomas was throwing offloads out the back door and plenty of tries were scored.

It didn’t take all that long for the first either as former Worcester Warriors wing Bryce Heem going over as Damian McKenzie spread the ball wide as the Barbarians pinched in to defend a maul.

In spite of a slow start, the Barbarians camped themselves in the All Blacks’ 22m and crossed the whitewash on three occasions through Zach Mercer. 

Crucially only one would count as the tourists contended with Tom Christie’s early yellow card, the first close call held up, the second disallowed for Marler using his hand to keep the ball in the scrum, the resulting reset for a prior penalty allowing Mercer to dot down relatively unopposed.

With Antoine Hastoy having added the conversion, the Barbarians had a slender lead which would change hands a couple more times before the half. Josh Dickson would pick-and-go from close range for the All Blacks and Lekima Tagitagivalu would burrow over for the Barbarians for another converted score.

Alex Nankivell would opportunistically latch onto a ball overthrown at the All Blacks lineout by his teammate Brodie McAlister, the centre running through Hastoy for the score. 

Before the break, Joe Marchant would give the Barbarians the lead before the break with an acrobatic finish in the corner, the departing Harlequins centre sent over after Thomas worked back inside before the quick hands of Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Mercer left the England international to do the rest.

Much like in the opening 40, it was the All Blacks who struck first blood in the second. Shaun Stevenson was the man doing the damage, the XV’s full-back stepping around plenty of black and white shirts on his way to the whitewash.

A double for the Barbarians would seal the game. Thomas went over following a strong carry by Marchant, the midfielder latching onto a ball that the French wing had nudged through, Marchant offloading in contact to score.

Used as a replacement, Rhys Webb’s guile at the breakdown allowed him to place down under heavy fire at close range and Bailyn Sullivan’s long range effort as George. Bridge failed to collect a low-flung pass was nothing more than a consolation score.

Post-match thoughts

After spending some time with his team in the changing room, some of whom could be found trotting through the media area with beers in hand, Scott Robertson emerged through the double doors.

One of the most highly touted coaches in the world right now, the 48-year-old led the Barbarians to their win this Sunday and will stay with the team until the end of next week after their games with Harlequins and Bath.

“That was physical, eh?” he said. “That was brutal. I think we talk about the attack side of it, but the physicality and defence was where we left our mark as a group. The boys cared about each other and the jersey today.”

It has been a short week. Ahead of taking on the All Blacks XV, the Barbarians had just two training sessions and a number of the group will depart in the coming days to return to their clubs and will be replaced by a largely new group.

This will include some players from Wasps who found themselves out of work after the club entered administration, joining John Ryan on tour who started at tighthead prop against the All Blacks.

Taking the opportunity to enjoy themselves tonight, it is a time that Robertson for one is enjoying immensely.

“It is great to be involved,” he said. “You meet a whole new group of guys, you jog around the field, make a couple of calls up and then go and trust your instincts and play.

“That’s the uniqueness of our sport, so to do it and help clubs on the side of it and support them financially and get a crowd in, and people like watching BaaBaas footy, so it’s special.”