Portugal and Belgium squared off in a tight and exhilarating rugby match this weekend, with the Os Lobos toppling rivals the Diables Noirs. Thanks to a brilliant first half, Portugal rugby were able to deliver fans a great victory and overcome Belgium 26-21.
European Nations Cup 2016/17
Portugal dominated the first half, scoring four tries and reaching 26 points in under thirty minutes, with outstanding tries from Gonçalo Foro (2), Tomás Appleton and Francisco Magalhães – coincidentally all players from club Centro Desportivo Universitário de Lisboa (CDUL).
The Belgians faced serious problems, with the quicker Portuguese players ‘slicing’ through their defence in this European Nations Cup 2016/17 game. They lacked efficiency in the first tackle, as well slow movement off of the line.
José Lima and Pedro Ávila [two of the many Portuguese players playing in the French PROD2 league] brought their best game to this International Test match, helping their team by delivering good tackles and strong quick play which is much needed for Portugal rugby.
Os Lobos ‘bit’ the Diables Noirs with four tries in thirty minutes
The Belgium side finally woke up after the 35 minutes, as they scored their first try following a strong scrum. It was the lift in tempo they wanted, piling the pressure on in the second half. It was in the scrum and line-outs were the Diables Noirs changed the pace of the game.
The Lobos forwards started to crack under pressure [in almost every scrum] with the Belgians adding points to the scoreboard and getting into the game. Tries were scored by Guillaume Brébant and Florent Debatty; both players from the Belgian First Division, finishing a strong set-piece that started with the forwards charging with the ball.
The last ten minutes sent the Portuguese fans into a frenzy, as the Belgians were just a single try from drawing the match. In the last moments of the game, the Portuguese players defended stoically (like they used to in the past) preventing a crucial late try from being scored. The final whistle blew and Portugal rugby won their first game in almost one year [Germany February, 2015). It was a tremendous result to crown the first match played at Setubal.
Portugal Rugby win first game in 12 months
After the game, Portuguese National Coach Martim Aguiar said “It was very important to win for us. Belgium grew in the second half and made our life and mission very hard. What gave us the victory was our attitude and passion for the game. That’s what we are looking for,” he told the Portuguese Rugby Union Website.
“I want to praise the players for their game as well the fans that came to Setúbal to welcome us for the first time!”
For Last Word On Rugby, there were several players that caught our eye: José Lima, Pedro Ávila and Tomás Appleton (pictured below) for Portugal; Bertrand Billi, Guillaume Brébant and Max Dubois for Belgium.
The Power of Appleton and the Guts of Billi
MVP Tomás Appleton scored the first try of the game; he made quite an impressive display. With courageous tackles, and even without very much ball, he and the backline were efficient while attacking the Belgium side.
For the visitors, Bertrand Billi was super-impressive in his job at the back of the Belgium pack. Great ability in both the scrum and lineout, a stellar performance all game. The number eight is one of the players worthy of following during the European Nations Cup 2016/17.
Belgium was dormant in the first 40 minutes, as the forwards only made a true effort in the second half. An almost magnificent display in the scrums and line-outs, Belgium can start to build a good squad around this pack of forwards.
Games overall rating: C+
LWOR award Portugal and Belgium a solid C+. Portugal was certainly impressive in the back-line, with quality moves. Very quick, efficient handling skills as were the four tries all scored by the back-line. Belgium can be happy with the comeback, but not the opening 30 minutes.
— Portugal Rugby (@PortugalRugby) October 17, 2016
Portugal and Belgium will now play in their European competitions: the Portuguese will fly to Switzerland to play the home team in the Trophy division. As for the Belgians, they now take a rest, but as in 2017 there will be a tough battle by all European Rugby sides to avoid relegation from the Rugby Europe Championship.