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There's a very high chance that if it's a PhD studentship at some institution you have no connection with, they've already had someone lined up internally (or via a collaborator) for the project, and are just advertising the position because policy says they have to. Truthfully, this is how the majority of academic positions are generated and filled. A lot of institutions do have a waiver process for the advertisements, but they'd rather not bother using it because it's more work for them than just ignoring anyone who applies -- honestly the fact that you got an email at all is surprising.
I've been on both ends of this schtick myself, and in fact I currently am waiting on a contract "offer" for a job that was decided on months ago.
Have you considered striking up a conversation with a specific academic? Even if you apply for something on FindaPhD.com, it's best to email your CV over to the academic directly in addition, and establish yourself as a real person. Otherwise, just finding someone whose research interests match what you want to do, and then outright emailing them to see if they have funding for a student (or could get funding) is a much better tactic, and much more agreeable for academics as people than the more formal application processes.
Shit one that you've been blanked, mate, but they're practically giving PhDs away these days so I'm sure you'll find something.