Rugby

Spain round on referee after rugby World Cup qualifier loss

2018-03-18 18:22

Brussels - Spain failed to secure automatic qualification for the 2019 Rugby World Cup on Sunday, losing to Belgium with their players rounding on the referee who had to be escorted off the pitch.

A second guaranteed appearance in the rugby showpiece 20 years after their debut was within Spain's reach as they had routed Belgium at home earlier in the European group phase.

But an 18-10 loss Sunday in a match they had to win, meant Romania and not the Spanish Lions secured direct passage to the finals in Japan.

Social media was quick to hint at dark conspiracy theories based on the nationality - Romanian - of the referee in charge of the game.

Spanish rugby federation president Alfonso Feijoo was in no doubt where the blame lay for Spain's shock defeat.

"Everyone who has seen the game will judge the referee. He gave 10 penalties against us, the result comes from that," he posted on Twitter.

The Santiago Santos-coached side still have a chance of qualifying through the play-offs.

They next face Portugal with the winner going on to play Samoa in a two-legged playoff for a ticket to join hosts Japan, Grand Slam champions Ireland, Scotland, and the Romanians in Pool A.

Spain came unstuck against Belgium's "best possible team" according to the host side's captain Jens Torfs.

Belgian coach Guillaume Ajac, who had fielded an inexperienced team in their away tie, recalled some established stars.

And the move paid off. Vincent Hart kicked them into a 12-0 lead at the break as their visitors who at times appeared paralysed by the enormity of the occasion.

Spain put themselves back in the game with a try from Charly Malie in the 70th minute and a penalty 10 minutes from time but with a late penalty Belgium held on to spark anger among the Spaniards who turned their ire on the referee.

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