Barbarians given wake-up call as going gets tougher
Australia legend George Gregan has only just put his feet up after bringing an end to his glittering career, but the world's most capped player and his BGC Asia Pacific Barbarians teammates were handed a 'reality check' yesterday after scrapping into the Cup quarter-finals at the GFI HKFC Tens.
The David Campese-coached Barbarians, who have several World Cup winners in their ranks, would have been expecting an easy ride through their two pool games. But after dispatching New Zealand's Pakuranga Orange 83-0, they came up against the all-aboriginal Lloyd McDermott Rugby Development Team, who are coached by former Wallaby Glen Ella.
Eroni Ravaga's fourth try of the tournament looked to have set the Barbarians on course for another straightforward victory until Bradley Manton's breakaway score turned the match in favour of the Lloyd McDermott side, who are named after Australia's first indigenous Wallaby.
An enthralling second half unfolded before Dustin Cooper crossed for the Barbarians, who needed Roy Kinkinilau's late score to make sure of a hard-fought victory to advance as pool winners to face the New Zealand Legend's in today's quarter-finals.
'It was a good day, but the last game was a reality check,' said Gregan, who made 139 appearances for the Wallabies and won the 1999 World Cup. 'But it will set us up for the second day very well.'
Last month Gregan ended his career on a high by helping Suntory Sungoliath to a 37-20 victory over Sanyo Wild Knights in the All-Japan Championship final in Tokyo to maintain his record of having won silverware with every team he has played for. He claimed the Super 12 title twice (2001 and 2004) with the ACT Brumbies and the French second division with Toulon.
Gregan will now turn his attentions to his business interests, including a number of espresso bars in Sydney, while also exploring media opportunities before and during the World Cup. He will also continue to work in coaching in Japan with Suntory and, in particular, Japanese scrumhalf Atsushi Hiwasa.
'Rugby in the region is on the up. In the three years I was in Japan it just got better and better. It is an exciting phase for rugby in this part of the world and Japan in particular.
'Japan are chasing their first World Cup victory and I think they will get it, although they are in a tough pool.
'They are coached by John Kirwan and are trying to play a style of rugby which is going to make them very competitive in international rugby. They have good players.'
Along with the Barbarians, all but one of the eight seeded teams progressed to the quarter-final stages with 100 per cent records.
Wild Titans, made up of several players including captain Alexander Widiker, who helped Germany beat Hong Kong last December, upset French raiders KIR Club Pyrenees with a 8-7 victory. That win set up a last eight meeting with the Frank Hadden-coached HSBC Penguins after the two time runners-up overcame the HKRFU Chairman's X 21-7.
Top seeds and last year's runners-up, Samurai, posted ruthless wins over Newedge Dragons and New Zealand's Pakuranga Pythons to advance to a quarter-final with G4S Domestic League runners-up Tradition Valley. Niue Wanderers against Malaysia's Borneo Eagles completes today's last-eight line-up ahead of the evening's semi-finals and finals.