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Wayne Lumbasi

If there ever was a match to show the dynamics of rugby outside the ‘Big Test’ establishment, it was in Madrid. A great prize for playing, a competition between neighbors, a first half to remove you from your seat and the second to create tension and quite a few mistakes. 

Spain booked their place at next year’s Rugby World Cup after beating Portugal 33-28 in Madrid. The crowd rushed onto the pitch at the final whistle to celebrate with the players as los Leones qualified for the men’s global showpiece for the first time since 1999 and only the second time in their history.

This Rugby Europe Championship (REC) win ensured they finished second in the combined table of 2021 and 2022 results so as to go through to France 2023.

With so much riding on the result, it was a little surprise that it was such a tight contest. Whenever momentum seemed to be swinging Portugal’s way, Spain upped the tempo to create another scoring opportunity.

Fans in the pitch celebrating Spain’s win /Courtesy/

After a first penalty for Portugal by the scrum half of Carcassonne Marquès, the Spaniards reacted through the intermediary of the pillar Zabala, who tore away to register the first try of the match (8th).

The Portuguese answered them three minutes later after a one-two between Marta and Bento, the latter flattening in a corner (11th). Then in eight minutes, Spain scored two new tries by Quercy (17th) and Pinto-Ferrer (25th) before Bettencourt (33rd) for Portugal went to queen.

Just before the break, Béziers hooker Pinto-Ferrer collapsed in the in-goal and scored his second try of the match (half-time: 24-17). In the second half, Marquès added six points before Ordas responded with three penalties. José Madeira scored the last try of the match, without affecting the final result.

Spain rugby team celebrating their victory against Portugal /Courtesy/

Spain climbed to 29 points in the qualification group with six wins and three losses, behind Georgia who have secured their place in France with eight wins and one draw after defeating Romania 26-23 in Bucharest on Saturday.

Spain will play Georgia in their final match of the campaign on March 20. Portugal are third in standing with 25 points but Romania have 23 points and a game in hand against the Netherlands next weekend. The team finishing third will go into the final qualification tournament in November.

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Wayne Lumbasi