- French challenge too strong for England Students
- “We'll learn from this occasion” – captain Messum
France 39 England Students 10
England Students, attempting to win on French soil for the first time, found the home side a force to be reckoned with on Friday night (January 31) as they came up against a powerful France team.
England Students had started brightly last week against Portugal and so it proved this time around. A strong ten minutes saw them put the first points on the board via a penalty from fly half Sam Katz. However, from here, the French began to gain the upper hand, forcing mistakes.
After 19 minutes the pressure told when France scored the first try of the game through their centre, Regard. The conversion attempt hit the post leaving the score at 5-3.
The next 15 minutes were a titanic struggle for supremacy with numerous lineouts and some strong driving play from both sides.
The English students came under increasing pressure in defence and, with less than ten minutes to go until the end of the first half, England’s Tom Hall was sin-binned after repeated offences by the team.
The French were awarded a penalty try as the English pack struggled to cope with being one man down. The conversion by Perraux took the score to 12-3.
The French team were not finished, however, and came back strongly with another try, this time by blind-side flanker Quercy on the stroke of half-time. The conversion was kicked to make the half-time score 19-3.
Back to 15 men in the second half with the return of Hall, England Students continued to soak up French pressure, with Perraux kicking another penalty on 50 minutes. In the worsening weather the French pick and drive game constantly asked questions of the England defence, who tried manfully to stem the tide.
Freddie Clarke and George Messum in the back row stood out as the forwards battled hard against the powerful French pack. In the end they got their reward when Tom Crozier finished off a good drive over the line on 58 minutes. Katz added the conversion to make it 22-10 and give a glimmer of hope.
England then tried to chase the game but could not gain ground in the face of the strong French defence and speed of attack.
An injury in England’s front row proved a further setback. After initial treatment on the pitch Tom Crozier was stretchered off the pitch with a dislocated shoulder.
The French finished strongly with two tries in the dying moments from their captain Brousse on the 78th and 80th minutes. Both tries were converted to leave the final score at 39-10.
In front of a crowd of 5,000, the England Students gave a good account of themselves against a much stronger French team. They face Wales next, on March 7, where they will look to get their season back on track.
Captain Messum said after the match: “In the first 20 I couldn’t fault the effort. In terms of physicality we said we were going to fire away with that first 20, which I think we did. Credit to France they played a really good offloading game getting behind the defensive line; so I think they were really good there.
“There were a couple of things we gifted them, in terms of set piece, they were pretty good in terms of defense but I think we’ll learn from this occasion, it’s a fantastic atmosphere and it’s hopefully something that we’ll learn from.”
England Students starting XV
15 Simon Hammersley (Durham University)
14 Jake Henry (Cardiff Met)
13 Ben Axten- Burrett (Cardiff Met)
12 Sebastian Rodwell (UWE Hartpury)
11 Guy Wood (Cardiff Met)
10 Sam Katz (Loughborough University)
9 Oliver Claxton (Exeter University)
1 Matthew Beesley (Leeds Met University)
2 James Stephenson (Bristol University)
3 George Beale (Exeter University)
4 Sean Robinson (Durham University)
5 Josh Walker (Cardiff Met)
6 George Messum (Loughborough University, captain)
7 Tom Hall (Cardiff Met)
8 Freddie Clarke (Bath University)
16 Lovejoy Chawatama (UWE Bristol)
17 Alex Boggis (Nottingham University)
18 Tom Crozier (Loughborough University)
19 James Gray (Exeter University)
20 Paul Davis (Exeter University)
21 Robert Coote (Exeter University)
22 Mark Cooke (Cardiff Met)
23 Murray Galbraith-Lowe (Durham University)