The best from the New Zealand versus Barbarians November Series curtain-raiser in Twickenham feature prominently in our Team of the Week.
15. Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh)
Canterbury full-back George Bridge applied the gloss to one of the rugby moments of the weekend when he underscored an audacious Barbarians’ performance with a last-minute try from what looked like a rehearsed soccer style free-kick.
That score – his second five-pointer – summed up a thrilling afternoon of rugby at Twickenham.
The Barbarians scored this last-minute try against New Zealand with a clever cross-field kick
However, matched against Bridge’s thrilling try-scoring display, was the performance of Blair Kinghorn who stretched an even more substantive performance across 80 minutes, 400 miles up the road in Edinburgh.
The Edinburgh full-back delivered another superb attacking display and one that set the home side on the road to victory over Ospreys in their PRO 14 fixture.
Kinghorn scored one try, created another and was heavily involved throughout.
For that performance and the win, he gets the nod over Bridge.
14. Chris Ashton (Toulon)
Though he featured for Toulon at full-back over the weekend, we had to find a place for Chris Ashton in our side as his superb try-scoring run continues.
The England player gave an exhibition of finishing, scoring a hat-trick of tries against Agen in their French Top 14 fixture.
But despite that notable haul, Ashton ended up on the losing side of a 26-24 scoreline.
A Chris Ashton hat-trick was not enough for Toulon as they lost 24-26 to Agen
The 30-year-old’s three tries, from deep and featuring strong support lines, paid the kind of rich dividend many had expected of Julian Savea on the wing for the Baa-Baas in Twickenham.
13. Samu Kerevi (Australia)
Glasgow’s season suffered a significant set-back when they lost to Exeter and then Leinster in the Champions Cup in recent weeks.
But on Friday, in Scotstoun, those defeats were made to look more like a wobble, when the hosts scored a scintillating revenge victory over Leinster in their PRO14 tie.
The 31-21 home victory was a collective effort but the all-action first half featured a decent dollop of attacking gloss, and some of it applied by centre, Nick Grigg, who’s try was a fine example of their attitude.
Ordinarily, Grigg would be in the shakedown here, but it wasn’t an ordinary performance in Japan for centre Samu Kerevi who scored a hat-trick of tries for Michael Cheika’s Australia in their win over Japan.
12. Ngani Laumape (New Zealand)
The flow of champagne rugby wasn’t incessant in the Twickenham test between New Zealand and the Barbarians.
There was a maul or two, and a scrum or two. And when New Zealand needed to wrest control of the game from the Baa Baas, they reduced space, upped their intensity and retreated back to basics so brutally effective they blitzed the Barbarians in the third quarter.
Highlights of the Killik Cup clash between the Barbarians and New Zealand from Twickenham
At the centre of that correction was the abrasive and immensely powerful Laumape. Not always as busy as he might have liked maybe but unstoppable when granted a glimpse of the try-line from a flat pass off a five-metre attacking scrum.
11. Waisake Naholo (New Zealand)
The All Blacks’ winger didn’t finish with a try but on an afternoon when the audience was spoiled by great ball skills, Naholo’s handling, awareness and patience to find support out of the tackle created two brilliant first-half tries for TJ Perenara and Vaea Fifita.
Both try-scorers and the rest of the All Blacks benefited greatly from his vision and the All Blacks had their foothold.
10. Reece Hodge (Australia)
Edinburgh’s Jason Tovey hit the Ospreys for 22-points from boot and open play in their PRO14 victory.
Prominent among that total, a show-and-go that wouldn’t have looked out of place down the road in Twickenham.
And with Beauden Barrett failing to hit the heights of some of his countrymen in England rugby headquarters, the weekend focus fell on Australian utility-back Reece Hodge whose general play and return of nine from nine conversions left coach Michael Cheika salivating after Australia’s 63-30 test win over Japan.
9. Andy Ellis (Barbarians)
He’s 33 now and playing out his final career years in Japan. And if that single sentence biog feels almost sedate, then it’s premature as Ellis gave an intense, pace-setting performance against the All Blacks, snapping out slick passes and establishing a tempo that set the Barbarians on the front foot.
1. Gethin Jenkins (Cardiff Blues)
It was the popular loosehead’s first game back since injuring his knee in the Blues’ win over the Ospreys at the Principality Stadium on April 15.
But the Wales’ stalwart made light of that lengthy absence with a weighty 56-minute contribution on Saturday against Zebre. Solid at the set-piece, the veteran front rower’s big early tackle in midfield allowed Nick Williams to turn over a Zebre attack and created the opportunity out wide for Williams to run in the first try.
For Blues’ fans, it was an important marker and a welcome one.
2. Nathan Harris (New Zealand)
It was a contest that was never going to drag from the anchor of one set piece to another. But despite the festival rugby on show, it was down to the New Zealand scrum to set the comeback platform.
The pressure applied here from five metres fixed the Barbarians’ defence and allowed scrum-half Perenara to set Laumape on an unstoppable charge to the line.
And with his work in the tight done for the night, Nathan Harris followed up on a loose ball to touch down and secure the contest for New Zealand before the third-quarter was out.
3. Atu Moli (Barbarians)
The New Zealander – and Barbarians’ tighthead on Saturday – looks a certainty to get a start for the All Blacks sooner than later.
An apprentice during the Rugby Championship, Moli will link up with his countrymen for the French leg of their November tour after shoring up his side of the scrum in Twickenham on Saturday and outshining his All Black counterparts in the loose.
4. Sam Carter (Barbarians)
It was yet another rare moment of grunt work. And amid all the deft flicks, searing breaks and innovative training ground restarts at Twickenham – the ACT Brumbies captain knuckled down in the tight when the Baa Baas had the All Blacks back-peddling on Saturday.
His try – the Barbarians’ third – was the least celebrated, but it’s doubtless the score will be coveted by the tight-forward after a solid performance.
5. Luke Romano (New Zealand)
The bloodied All Blacks second-row was one of the few players singled out for praise on the winning side of a game described as ‘possibles versus probables’ New Zealand encounter.
On Saturday Romano got through an eye-catching amount of work.
6. Steven Luatua (Barbarians)
A year ago, Steven Luatua was in the All Blacks’ team that thrashed Italy in Rome. He didn’t finish out this contest on Saturday but his four explosive runs – one from close to his own line after he intercepted a flat pass from TJ Perenara – dominated post-Twickenham pub reviews.
Luatua surged, sidestepped and slipped out of tackles, appearing unplayable at times as he fixed and frustrated the New Zealand defence.
By the time he had limped off in the 60th minute, he’d made 12 carries for 126 metres.
7. Kwagga Smith (Barbarians)
His almost casual jersey-half-pulled-out look and effortless running style felt like a rugby expression from an older time.
But Smith delivered an uplifting, all-action, ever willing performance marked by deceptively quick breaks, ball-rips and crunching tackles that saw the South African deservedly named the man of the match.
8. Cornel du Preez (Edinburgh)
The Edinburgh Number 8 saw off some stiff competition to finish with the man-of-the-match award in his side’s 37-10 win over Ospreys. Fly-half Jason Tovey hit 22-points and Blair Kinghorn was hugely impressive and influential at full-back, but Du Preez was positive, direct and so often involved in maintaining his side’s match-winning momentum.