Marcus Smith and Alex Dombrandt shine as England beat Barbarians
The Harlequins duo both scored to press their claims for inclusion in Jones’ first World Cup training squad.
Marcus Smith and Alex Dombrandt excelled in front of Eddie Jones as England successfully navigated their way through the tricky annual fixture against the Barbarians by registering a 51-43 victory at Twickenham.
Rugby round up Newsletter
The Harlequins duo both scored to press their claims for inclusion in Jones’ first World Cup training squad, which is to be named at the end of the month.
Smith withdrew from the England Under-20s squad bound for the junior world championships in order to prove himself against a star-studded Barbarians line-up containing 478 caps, and that bold decision paid off.
The 20-year-old fly-half played intelligently and added to his clever try with three penalties and six conversions in an unblemished afternoon from the kicking tee to finish man of the match.
Dombrandt reproduced the powerful carrying and sharp lines that have lit up Harlequins’ season and while neither he nor Smith are likely to travel to Japan this autumn, they identified themselves as fringe contenders.
Centre Joe Marchant and scrum-half Alex Mitchell also starred as England, who were coached by the Rugby Football Union’s pathway development coach Jim Mallinder, were forced to survive a second-half Barbarians fightback.
Four tries in quick succession gave Pat Lam’s men sight of the finishing line only for Dombrandt’s second try and the kicking of Smith to shut the door.
An impressive crowd of 17,402 attended the England women’s 40-14 victory in their historic maiden fixture against the Barbarians that launched the afternoon, with that figure increasing to 40,230 for the main event.
The willingness to attack from inside their own 22 led to the Barbarians conceding early on as centre Johnny Williams pounced on a poorly-executed midfield move to send Josh Bassett over in the left corner.
The response was a two-try salvo that began when All Blacks fly-half Colin Slade spotted James Horwill was in acres of space and hoisted an inch-perfect kick for the retiring Harlequins lock to touch down.
Barbarians line-out trickery enabled their second as the ball was thrown to Joe Marler and two drives later Francois Louw was over.
But their lead soon gave way to a hefty deficit as three converted tries in six minutes sent England into the break 31-12 ahead.
Marchant initiated the first of two high-quality tries by using quick feet to create an opening and with the impressive Mitchell and Ben Curry outside him in support, full-back Simon Hammersley was able to cross.
Smith was the next to score through an out-stretched arm as he cleverly chose the moment to get involved in England’s attack and created enough doubt in Barbarians minds to force a gap.
Dombrandt then completed a thrilling spell by cantering over after Mitchell had intercepted Rhys Webb’s pass at a line-out.
Turning from scorer to provider, Dombrandt expertly read an overly-ambitious Barbarians move to leap on a loose ball and charge forward before offloading to Johnny Williams.
Sharp hands conjured a try for Mark Atkinson to stem the flow of England points and when replacement Rhodri Williams finished a move that started from inside the 22, the Barbarians suddenly had hope.
Atkinson’s second after a dazzling run from Charles Piutau ate further into the deficit and the revival continued when a line-out was driven over, with Dave Heffernan crossing.
England now only led by three points but a Smith penalty and Dombrandt’s second try put them out of sight.