England Students scored two tries in each half before going down 29-25 to Portugal’s national side in Lisbon. Portugal are ranked 20th in the world by the International Rugby Board, and came into the match on the back of Six Nations B Championship wins over Russia and Romania, who have both qualified for this year’s Rugby World Cup.

But England Students were in good heart too after their 25-23 win over France Universities eight days ago (February 25).

And they ran their hosts close at the Estádio Universitário with tries in the closing eight minutes by UWIC second row Matt Smith and Loughborough University wing Ed Styles.

Portugal led 17-3 after 18 minutes with two converted tries and a penalty to a penalty for England Students by University of Exeter fly half Chris Reakes.

University of Bristol hooker Adam Bellamy scored England’s first try from a lineout drive close to the Portuguese line after 19 minutes, and University of Exeter flanker Tom Sargeant broke off from a similar drive five minutes later to claim another score.

Portugal struck twice for tries in the opening 10 minutes of the second half with one conversion to lead 29-13.

But England Students showed great character and increased the tempo in the later stages, winning the battle on the gainline and using the full width of the field to score two good tries through Smith and Styles, the first of them converted by University of Bath fly half Paul Roberts, on for Reakes.

“For the second match running we made a slow start,” said Pete Drewett, England Students’ team manager, “but in the last 20 minutes we played fantastic rugby.

“The coaches and players are disappointed to lose because we set ourselves high standards but we appreciate this was a great opportunity to play a well-ranked international side and it gave the England boys valuable experience of playing under pressure and doing the right things at the right times.”

The Students awarded 16 new caps against the French and added another today when University of Bristol lock Luke Bellinger came on as a replacement in the second half.

England Students: L Messer (UWIC); E Styles (Loughborough), T Mitchell (Bristol, capt), A Cheesman (Oxford), S Miller (Bath); C Reakes (Exeter), R Weir (Loughborough); S Lockwood (Leeds Met), A Bellamy (Bristol), C Parilli-Ocampo (Loughborough), R Boyle (Northumbria), M Smith (UWIC), A Waddingham (Loughborough), T Sargeant (Exeter), R de Carpentier (UWIC).

Replacements: M Mustafa (Liverpool) for  Lockwood 50, M Macfarlane (Loughborough) for  Waddingham 50, F Burdon (Cambridge) for  Mitchell 55, P Roberts (Bath) for  Reakes 55, J Yeandle (UWIC) for  Bellamy 55, C Grant (Reading) for  Weir 65, L Bellinger (Bristol) for  Boyle 65.

Scorers: tries: Bellamy, Sargeant, Smith, Styles; con: Roberts; pen: Reakes.

England Students Fixtures 2010-11

Friday February 25, won 25-23 v France Universities, Richmond

Saturday March 5, lost 29-25 v Portugal, Lisbon

Saturday March 26 v France Universities, Versailles.