Spain lay down marker with Zimbabwe win
All eyes may be on Europe with an unprecedented schedule of November internationals, but in the Namibian capital of Windhoek on Wednesday Spain showed their desire to qualify for Rugby World Cup 2015 by overwhelming Zimbabwe 47-14 in the Tri-Nations Rugby Series.
African champions Zimbabwe, who had lost the opening match to hosts Namibia 37-33 last weekend, had only trailed Spain by five points at half-time but had no answer to the European side’s tempo in the second half.
Spain ran in six tries in the victory with left wing Javier Carrion adding 15 points with the boot as their forwards laid the platform for victory by dominating in the scrum and using the driving maul to great effect.
Hooker Juan Anaya opened the scoring when he charged over in the corner after only eight minutes with two Carrion penalties increasing that lead to 11-0, but Zimbabwe clawed their way back to 14-9 at half-time after three Tichafara Makwanya penalties.
RWC 2015 the target
The Spanish battered away at the Zimbabwe defence after the restart and within two minutes had a second try through Anaya following an impressive driving maul. Captain Jon Magunazelaia was next to cross before replacement Cesar Sempere cut through the defence to increase Spain’s lead to 33-9.
Zimbabwe scrum half Scotty Jones scored a try from the restart but there was to be no recovery as Corey Smith intercepted and ran 30 metres to score Spain’s fifth try. Matias Tudela scored another from an intercept try in the final minute to put the gloss on an impressive performance.
Spain, the highest ranked of the three teams in 20th in the IRB World Rankings going into the tournament, will now meet Namibia in the title decider on Saturday and will be eager to secure another win as they build towards the European Nations Cup kick-off in February.
This competition will again double as the qualification process for RWC 2015 with the top two sides in Division 1A come 2014 qualifying directly as Europe 1 and 2. The third placed team will face a play-off for the right to enter the repechage.
Spain have only played on the Rugby World Cup stage once before, losing to Uruguay, Scotland and South Africa in 1999, but coach Bryce Bevin admits that while it is “a great challenge to get the men’s team into the World Cup, that is where we want to go”.
Only time will tell if Spain can realise that goal by overcoming the likes of Georgia, Russia, Romania, Portugal and Division 1A newcomers Belgium over the next two years, but victory over Namibia will ensure their European rivals do not underestimate them.
Georgia, Russia and Portugal are all in action this weekend with defending European Nations Cup champions Georgia hosting Japan for the first time in Tbilisi, while Russia meet Canada in the IRB International Rugby Series in Colwyn Bay. Portugal, meanwhile, will be looking to build on their victory over Uruguay when they meet Chile in Santiago.