- Tries by Humphries and Burgess open up 18-6 lead
- Late heartbreak for Students against world’s 21st ranked team
Photo: Antonio Lamas
England Students were within two minutes of victory over a Portugal side standing 21st in the official world rankings, until a try from back row Vasco Uva converted by replacement Pedro Cabral gave the home side a 21-18 win at the Estádio Universitário in Lisbon this afternoon.
The Students’ toughest fixture of recent years saw a squad including 16 new caps play adventurous rugby throughout and they led 18-6 with 15 minutes remaining.
But Portugal, whose players have been in a training camp in preparation for Rugby World Cup qualifiers against Russia and Georgia over the next two weeknds, hit back with a penalty and two tries.
The second of them by Uva - their captain at the last World Cup in France - came from a driven line out after 78 minutes and was converted by Cabral 15 metres in from the touchline. The position had come from a penalty kicked to touch after a late tackle by England Students.
"We played outstandingly well and kept faith with our attacking brand of rugby," said Keith Green, England Students’ team manager.
"This match was always going to be about fine margins and it was disappointing to lose but the players responded brilliantly to a tough challenge."
England Students led 3-0 with a penalty by Bath fly half Paul Roberts before Portugal levelled with a 32nd minute penalty by full back Pedro Leal.
In added time at the end of the first half, UWE centre Matt Humphries got over for the first of England Students’ two tries after a good counter-attack featuring inter-passing between the half backs and back row, and Roberts converted for a 10-3 interval lead.
Leal missed a penalty then converted one after 48 minutes as Portgual based their game around the line-out, while England prospered in the scrums and had Bristol centre Tom Mitchell in fine form.
After 57 minutes a move on the blind side of a scrum brought England Students’ second try through their captain, Loughborough flanker Phil Burgess, and a 15-6 lead.
Roberts’s second penalty of the afternoon in shirt-sleeves weather in the Portuguese capital stretched England’s advantage to 12 points.
But the Students were penalised for crossing when they caught the restart and Cabral kicked the penalty for Portugal to trail 18-9.
Replacement António Aguilar, on for Leal, scored wide out for Portugal as they played a possession game and forced the Students back before Uva’s late converted try clinched it.
Portugal 21 England Students 18, Estádio Universitário, Lisbon, Saturday January 30.
Portugal: P Leal; A Esteves, D Mateus, P Silva, F Oliveira; C Pinto, J Pinto; J Junior, J Correia (capt), T da Costa, C Stickling, R Simões, V Uva, S Palha, T Girão.
Tries: Aguilar, Uva; Con: Cabral; Pens: Leal 2, Cabral.
England Students: J Bordiss (Exeter); S Morris (Oxford), T Mitchell (Bristol), M Humphries (UWE), T Hockedy (Exeter); P Roberts (Bath), W Chudleigh (Loughborough); M Berry (Loughborough), A Bellamy (Bristol), O Mines (Durham), J Aston (Loughborough), A Archibald (Northumbria), M Wilson (Northumbria), P Burgess (Loughborough, capt), B Maidment (Cambridge). Replacements (all used): T Brockett, P Crossley (Cambridge), R Cadman (Hartpury), A Waddingham (Durham), M Ward (Durham), G Nicholls (Bristol), J Crozier (Durham).
Tries: Humphries, Burgess; Con: Roberts; Pens: Roberts 2.
England Students fixtures 2010
England Students v Portugal (away) lost 21-18
Saturday January 30, Estádio Universitário, Lisbon.
England Students v Irish Colleges (home)
Friday February 26, Kingston Park Stadium, Newcastle, 7.30pm.
England Students v France Universities (away)
Friday March 19, Riom, 7pm.