ASHBOURNE rugby ace Josh Redfern was in international action over the weekend – but suffered an agonising defeat.
Redfern went on as a replacement for England Counties Under-20s against Georgia Under-20s at Cambridge's Volac Park on Saturday.
It was a proud moment for the 20-year-old, who replaced Derby's Luke Frixou in the closing stages, but a late penalty gave the Georgians a narrow 23-22 victory.
The lead changed hands four times in a dramatic last 10 minutes before a kick from full-back Giorgi Babunashvili clinched it for the visitors.
Sheffield Tigers second row Redfern, who went to Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School in Ashbourne, had featured in a 36-10 win over the same opposition at Shelford earlier in the week.
England had been warned to expect a backlash in the second fixture and, ultimately, so it proved.
Left wing Davit Gulitashvili scored the opening try after a sustained attack, which fly-half Revaz Jintchvelashvili converted.
England hit back just before the half hour when openside flanker Jack Alcock clattered through for an unconverted try but Jintchvelashvili landed a penalty just before the break to give Georgia a 10-5 lead at half-time.
Another Jintchvelashvili penalty seven minutes into the second half stetched Georgia's lead but England reduced it to a point when left wing Kwaku Asiedu ran back a poor clearance kick and created space for tighthead prop Jack Culverhouse to step over for a try, which Ben Penfold converted.
But Culverhouse was sent off seven minutes later along with Georgia's loosehead prop Mataradze Tornike for punching during a flare-up.
England took the lead for the first time after 73 minutes when Rhodri Adamson struck a penalty but Georgia responded with a sustained attack that led to Babunashvili touching down from close range for a try that he converted himself.
Jack Rossiter's try, after patient approach work had created the overlap for the wing, and Adamson's superb conversion appeared to have won it for England but Georgia's resistance had not been broken and they forced the decisive penalty.
England head coach Bob Hood believes Redfern and co will return to their clubs better players.
"I said to the boys that success is not a destination, it's a journey and we will continue with the journey," said Hood.
"Anything they can take out of this and move back to their clubs is fantastic. It's the bigger picture.
"Our players have experienced different cultures, different styles of play and they will go back better rugby players. They will take a lot of positives back.
"It's the process rather than the game that will be the winner in the end.
"They have gelled and made friendships. Their parents will be very proud and the scoreline in the end was 23-22 and you could really say that a draw would have been a good result.
"But rugby was the winner right through."