- Students go down four tries to two in Riom
- Morris and Hockedy touchdowns not enough in wind and rain
A try five minutes into injury time of the second-half flattered the scoreline in the French Universities favour, 35-22, against an England Students team that never gave in especially playing against the elements in the opening half.
The Students withstood the strong wind and rain in their faces for the opening half of the match at the Complexe Sportif Emile Pons a Riom and were only a point adrift, 14-13, as they changed ends.
But their hosts outgunned them three tries to one after the break to win a thrilling match much to the absolute delight of the large crowd.
As England Students team manager Keith Green summed up: “It was a brilliant game with two really good sides playing great rugby in difficult conditions.”
In the first half all the early pressure was on the visitors, who found themselves trailing 10-0 after 14 minutes to an early penalty and a converted try from the Universities No.8.
But, the Students hit back straight away when they won precious turn-over ball and skipper and No.8 Phil Burgess broke out from underneath his own posts.
He found wing Sean Morris who sprinted three-quarters the length of the pitch to dab down under the posts and give Bath fly half Paul Roberts a simple conversion.
While the home side increased their lead with a second penalty on 33 minutes the Students, despite the elements, managed to push their score along before half-time.
Once again Burgess had a major hand in the try after his side had forced the Universities back into their own corner and some great inter-play between the Students forwards and backs was rounded off when Burgess sent wing Louis Messer galloping over in the corner.
Roberts failed with the long-distance conversion attempt but, never-the-less, his side started the second-half trailing by just a point, 13-12.
A series of forward drives from the Universities however was rewarded when their full-back ran in under the posts on 50 minutes to present an easy conversion for their fly half who, five minutes later, added a penalty to put his side 23-12 ahead.
Roberts reduced arrears with a penalty himself soon after only for the Universities openside flanker to add their third try from a series of forward drives.
Again the Students struck back and from well taken line-out ball they covered the full width of the pitch to send Exeter wing Tom Hockedy over in the corner and for replacement James Crozier to convert magnificently.
The Universities were still attacking until the end only to spill ball in their eagerness to score that was gratefully snapped up by their hosts for one last converted touchdown.
It was the final match of the season for the England Students side who also lost so narrowly, 21-18, to the Portugal World Cup squad before beating Irish Colleges, 42-9.
As Green summed up: “We’ve got a great bunch of lads here who have developed as people as well as players over the past few months.
“It was my last match as team manager as well and I’m really proud of them all.”
Louis Messer (UWIC); Sean Morris (Oxford), Tom Mitchell (Bristol), Matt Humphries (UWE), Tom Hockedy (Exeter); Paul Roberts (Bath), Josh Leach (UWIC); Matt Berry (Loughborough), Adam Bellamy (Bristol), Oliver Mines (Durham); Will Warden (Loughborough), Andrew Archibald (Northumbria); Mark Wilson (Northumbria), Evan Stewart (Manchester), Phil Burgess (Loughborough, captain).
Replacements: Patrick Crossley (Cambridge), Tim Brockett, Royce Cadman (Hartpury), Ben Maidment (Cambridge), Harry Peck (Newcastle), Mike Ward (Durham) James Crozier (Durham)