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JAGUARs vs Direito

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Zé Vieira - a true JAGUAR in body and soul... Zé Vieira - a true JAGUAR in body and soul...

JAGUARs just miss out on a famous win as another game against a top side goes right down to the wire.

Click here to view Michael Hultén's images from the game.

Click here to view Peter Fay's images from the game.

Match Report by Simon Mount

Sub-18 JAGUARs 17 - 19 GD Direito

So in the end the JAGUARs had to be content with a losing bonus point, but came so close to securing what would have been a stunning victory against defending champions GD Direito. Following the single point loss against the also-fancied Belenenses, belief is sky high amongst the squad, but frustration also mounts with another failure to take the spoils when they were on offer. On this occasion, João Caneças was blameless as he took on but pushed just wide a 45m shot at goal that would have seen the JAGUARs home. The pressure on his shoulders was immense at this point, as an expectant crowd, at least those who could bear to watch, held their breath - apart, that is, from one or two ill-mannered Direito supporters who rather let their illustrious club down. The way the visiting team reacted with unbridled relief at the final whistle, though, betrayed the Fear of the Feline that now seems to prevail even amongst Portugal's blue-riband clubs. 

And so another game in which the JAGUARs outscored their opponents by two tries to one, was decided by the relatively haphazard nature of the location of penalty awards. Direito had been given their get-out-of-jail-card with an off-side penalty right in front of the posts just a few minutes prior to the devilishly difficult proposition handed to poor Mr Buga.

In truth, Direito were the better team in the second half, playing a far more effective kicking game, which kept the JAGUARs penned into their own third of the field for most of the final 35 minutes. This entire JAGUARs team relishes a scrap though, and, as they repelled wave after wave of counter-attacks from short clearance kicks, and dealt effectively with intelligent switches of play from a classy pair of half backs, the feeling grew that the game would indeed come down to the finest of margins.

In what was turning out to be a superb collective effort from the men in orange and green, their were some inspirational heroics from individual JAGUARs. Gabriel Pop and José Vieira produced massive and exquisitely timed hits at key moments, and also combined particularly effectively at kick-offs. The pack held their own throughout and also put their bodies on the line, whilst António Espírito Santo was in awesome form over the ball.

Sadly though, the opportunities to extend their half-time lead were limited by an inability to move the ball into Direito's red zone, largely the result of a failure to either hit the turf or generate distance on clearance kicks - both errors compounded by relatively disorganised chases.

The first half had been a different story, however, as the JAGUARs produced some sublime attacking Rugby, and stifled their multi-skilled opponents at every turn. The tight five got a lovely little shunt on at the first scrum, then slick handling and clever running lines created panic in the Direito defence and opened the door just wide enough for Gabriel Pop to chip cleverly through and win the chase for the touch down. João Caneças added the extras in a dream start for the home team.

Direito fought back straight away, as expected, maintaining possession and exerting persistent pressure close to the JAGUARs' line, which eventually brought them an equalising score. Other than this, the JAGUARs' defensive line held very firm throughout, and there were no more than a single clear line-break or two from the visitors in the whole game. 

The JAGUARs' first half lead was regained following one superb counter-attack that resulted in the most beautiful of tries for Ricardo Gonga. He was the ultimate beneficiary of a series of perfectly timed passes and brilliant support running lines that just oozed class and sent the home fans into raptures. In between a couple of penalties to Direito, João Caneças responded with a well-struck one of his own, to give the JAGUARs their precious, but ultimately too slender, half-time advantage.

One thing though had been made abundantly clear by the time the teams left the field. Something substantial is stirring in the jungle of Sub-18 Rugby in Portugal. And you'd better watch out for those JAGUARs!

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