FORMER Burton prop James Gibbons helped England Students pull off an impressive 25-20 win against Portugal to break their three-year jinx in Lisbon.
Gibbons – the youngest player in the England squad at 19 – was “shocked” to make the starting line-up,
But the prop revelled in his own display as England recovered from a 12-9 interval deficit to clinch a famous 25-20 victory.
“The physicality was higher and the tempo was quicker than games I’ve been used to,” said Gibbons.
“I was really happy with how I played. I was not expecting that tempo.
“So to keep up with the pace, do well in the scrum and make some good tackles was really good.
“Hopefully I’ve no done enough to start the in the next couple of games.”
England Students head coach James Farndon heaped praise on Gibbons and his team-mates after breaking their Lisbon hoodoo.
“Real credit must go to the boys who have been an absolute pleasure to work with,” said Farndon. “They’ve listened, worked hard and put into practice everything we’ve talked about all week.
“Even when we were down at half-time, we just focused on our strengths, namely at the set-piece and we delivered on that in the second half.
“I’m really pleased for them and it’s now just a case of enjoying this before trying to build on it ahead of the game against France Universities next month.”
Assistant coach Aaron James, who is new to the England Students coaching set-up this season, was delighted with the efforts shown by a side containing 20 new caps – including that of Gibbons. And he reserved praise for Students captain Josh Beaumont.
He said: “A lot of players showed us not only their obvious talent but also their mental toughness today. Josh Beaumont typified that for us.
“When we were down, he rallied us and kept us on track and that’s a credit to him.
“As a coaching unit, though new to the England Students set-up, we’ve known each other for a while and it’s a real pleasure to be involved with this group and we look forward to seeing them in the next few weeks in BUCS and National League games.”
The physical home side enjoyed the better of the first half in the Portuguese capital but England’s defence stood firm, as it did for so much of the afternoon.
Manuel Costa kicked Portugal into a 12-9 lead at the interval while England’s points came from the reliable boot of Loughborough University’s Sam Katz. But the visitors came out after half-time with a bang.
An incisive break from centre Alex Lozowski eventually went through a number of phases, before Hartpury prop Chad Thorne crossed the whitewash unopposed, much to the delight of the travelling band of supporters.
Katz extended the lead with a penalty and a well taken drop goal as England put a real stranglehold on the match and moved into a commanding 22-12 lead with 12 minutes to go.
A late Aderito Esteves try and Costa’s fifth penalty restored hope for the home side. But a fifth Katz penalty sealed a notable win.