On Saturday Poland met Portugal in what turned out to be a game of contrasting styles of rugby.
Played in Lisbon at the Estadio Nacional the conditions were forecast for rain but the game ended up being played in quite warm conditions which played into the hands of the Portuguese.
The first ten minutes gave the impression that the game was going to be a very hard and physical encounter and the Polish team looked strong in the scrums and rucks. They turned this early dominance into an early lead after scoring a penalty on the back of a decent period of possession.
Once the Portuguese managed to take some possession of the ball however the game quickly changed. Instead of confronting the bigger Polish players head on into the collisions they passed the ball around them, moving it into space and looking for holes in the defence.
They soon found these holes and scored a try after breaking the line in the midfield of the Polish defence. After scoring they then scored again immediately afterwards and established a score line of 14-3, enough of a lead to give them confidence. This new found confidence allowed them to continue to play their brand of running rugby which exposed the Polish team’s fitness levels. The defence around the ruck area’s looked strong for the Poles but the Portuguese simply passed around this area of strength and looked to expose them in the mid field and out wide. This strategy again paid off with Portugal scoring their third try of the first half taking the score out to 21-3. This quick succession of scoring showed what pace can do against power, with the Polish looking strong and competitive for the first fifteen minutes and then letting three tries through in the following fifteen minutes.
The Polish team managed to regroup and establish a period of good possession, camped in Portugal’s half for a significant period of time. They continued with their contact based attack strategy and ignored several penalty opportunities inside Portugal’s twenty-two. Instead opting for lineout’s and mauls, they continued to press for a try and it finally paid off with prop Toma Mchedlidze scoring a try from the base of a ruck in his first game for Poland. After the try was converted this took the two team into the break with the score line being 21-10.
The second half was a much closer affair, with the two teams battling hard for dominance and neither able to make any significant inroads. Some costly errors on both sides such as a forward pass from the Portuguese and a kick that went out on the full for Poland ensured that the half time score line would remain for a long period of the second half. Not until the 63rd minute did Portugal finally manage to break the deadlock, scoring off a creative line out move that caught the Polish players off guard. After another successful conversion the scored had now blown out to 28-10.
There was still fight left in the Polish team however with their biggest line break of the game coming in the 70th minute on the back of some solid defence. They continued to push for another try and again established themselves in the Portuguese twenty-two, again choosing for a lineout instead of kicking penalties. The line-out was poorly executed however and cost the Polish team yet another scoring opportunity. With only minutes left to play the Polish again fought their way back into the Portuguese twenty-two but after an intercept pass was thrown in the 78th minute it made another try impossible and cost the Polish what was probably their last scoring opportunity of the game.
Not able to turn the intercept into points Portugal instead found themselves winning a penalty from the scrum and opted for a line-out in the dying seconds. Playing quick ball from ruck they then managed to score a final try in the last play of the game bringing the final score to 35-10.