Os Lobos fell to a surprise defeat against Belgium on Saturday
Rugby World Cup heroes Portugal suffered an unexpected 10-6 loss at the hands of Belgium in the first game of their 2024 Rugby Europe campaign.
The visitors were overwhelming favourites ahead of the fixture and most anticipated new boss Daniel Hourcade would get off to a winning start as he takes over the reins in Lisbon. Instead, he watched Portugal lose and it was Belgium head coach Laurent Dossat who made the most of his supposed honeymoon period with the typically unfancied Black Devils.
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Watch Portugal lose in shock result nobody saw coming
Os Lobos failed to continue the momentum which saw them win the hearts and minds of many spectators in France, where they achieved their first-ever point at a World Cup by drawing 18-18 with Georgia and notably beat Fiji 24-23 to secure their inaugural victory in the tournament.
All the points were scored during the first half in Mons, with the Stade Charles Tondreau’s capacity crowd rocking as the game went on and belief began to grow that the hosts could attain their first win over Portugal since 2017.
The match started well for the visitors when scrum half Hugo Aubry excellently dispatched a penalty from the left-hand side of the pitch to give Hourcade’s men a 3-0 lead.
Moments later, however, Belgium fly-half Hugo de Francq scored the only try of the match after skilfully breaking through the Os Lobos defence and crossing. The Black Devils were heavily reliant on the kicking ability of Florian Remue, and his subsequent conversion and a later penalty sealed the shock triumph for the hosts.
Portugal, who struggled to convert their attacking dominance throughout the night, could not force their way back into the game despite Aubry’s second successful kick just before half-time.
For the remainder of the match, Dossat’s men put in a mammoth defensive effort to see out a win which means they have now risen three places to 26th in the World Rugby men’s rankings. Conversely, Os Lobos have fallen three places to 16th.
Speaking before the match to RugbyPass, Portugal captain Tomas Appleton discussed the challenges facing his squad following the retirement of key players after last year’s World Cup, such as scrum-half Samuel Marques and hooker Mike Tadjer.
Appleton said: “We have a lot of challenges with this new group, with a lot of new players coming in. A lot of older players have decided to not play anymore so it is a renewal of the team with the new staff.
“Daniel Hourcade has come in as coach and he has so much experience, especially with Argentina, so we are really confident with what he is bringing to our team.”
After the game, Dossat could not hide his elation at the result. He said: “It is just incredible, I am so happy for everyone involved. The fighting spirit and the mindset of the players was just amazing.”
Belgium’s next game sees them travel to Romania on Saturday, while Portugal seek redemption at home to Poland in that day’s evening match.