Canada are back in the win column after a nine-month drought as they defeated Spain by 37-27 at the Estadio Universidad Complutense in Madrid on Saturday. The much-needed win did not come easily, with Canada forced to claw back from an early 17-3 deficit to draw level at the break and take the lead with a much improved second half effort.
The first few minutes saw the two teams fighting for control and it was Brock Staller who broke the deadlock with a penalty goal at the 10 minute mark. Brad Linklater replied for Spain to start a purple patch for the Leones as they ran up 17 points in eight minutes.
Some ragged Canadian defense was taken advantage of by Mathieu Bélie, the flyhalf attacking the blindside and passing to Sébastien Ascarat whose offload inside put Lucas Guillaume in space. The rangy second row stepped inside Andrew Coe’s despairing tackle for the first try. The second was also instigated by Bélie, with a well-timed pass to Ignacio Contardi coming in off his wing to find free passage to the line.
The bad news kept coming for Canada as Staller missed an easy penalty goal and then Aaron Carpenter was forced off with an injury. Instead of capitulation, however, they pulled up their socks and went on the attack. With Spain back on their heels Taylor Paris ran a hard line and put the ball down just inside the uprights for a score that lifted the whole side.
A second try came from a chaotic passage deep in Leones territory. Bélie grabbed a loose ball at a ruck and flung a pass to Guillaume but Kyle Baillie was on hand to knock it from his hands and grab possession. Matt Heaton was quick over the ball and Phil Mack popped to DTH van der Merwe who dove over the attempted tackle of Marco Pinto Ferrer and into the end zone. Staller landed his second conversion and it was a deadlock heading to the intermission.
It didn’t take long for Canada to get back on the board after the breather. Again it was their two star backfielders Paris and van der Merwe who did the damage, but not before Guillaume Rouet was sent to the bin for a cynical tackle on Phil Mack on a quick tap that was lucky not to have conceded a penalty try.
Instead of points Mack called for a scrum and Paris popped up off his wing to take it in for his second try. The scrum again set the platform for van der Merwe’s second, the midfielder roaring around the blindside and straight through the defense to replicate his teammate’s scoring feat.
Beñat Auzqui cross from short range to make things interesting but Staller stretched the lead with two penalty goals to make up for his earlier miss and that would be enough to seal the victory. A late try from Fernando López would be academic only for Spain.
With some confidence restored Canada now prepare for their final match of the November series against Fiji at the neutral venue of Narbonne next Saturday. Spain will wonder what went wrong and look to right some wrongs in time for their meeting with Brazil in Villajoyosa on the same day.
Tries – L. Guillaume (19’), I. Contardi (23’), B. Auzqui (55’), F. López (78’)
Cons – B. Linklater 2/4 (20’, 24’)
Pens – B. Linklater 1/1 (16’)
Yellow cards – G. Rouet (43’)
Tries – T. Paris 2 (35’, 44’), D. van der Merwe 2 (39’, 50’)
Cons – B. Staller 4/4 (36’, 40’, 45’, 51’)
Pens – B. Staller 3/4 (10’, 59’, 66’)
1 Beñat Auzqui (16 Fernando López 57’), 2 Marco Pinto Ferrer (17 Juan Anaya 52’), 3 Jesús Moreno Rodriguez (18 Jonathan García HT), 4 Lucas Guillaume (19 Carlos Gavidi 42’), 5 David Barrera, 6 Pierre Barthère, 7 Gautier Gibouin (capt.) (20 Mathieu Visensang 60’), 8 Fred Quercy, 9 Guillaume Rouet (21 Sébastien Rouet 62’), 10 Mathieu Bélie, 11 Sébastien Ascarat, 12 Dan Snee (22 Thibaut Álvarez 62’), 13 Fabien Perrin, 14 Ignacio Contardi (23 Joan Losada 67’), 15 Brad Linklater
1 Hubert Buydens (17 Djustice Sears-Duru 52’), 2 Ray Barkwill (16 Benoît Pifféro 52’), 3 Matt Tierney (18 Cole Keith 52’), 4 Josh Larsen (19 Brett Beukeboom 74’), 5 Evan Olmstead, 6 Kyle Baillie, 7 Matt Heaton, 8 Aaron Carpenter (20 Kyle Gilmour 30’), 9 Phil Mack (capt.) (21 Andrew Ferguson 67’), 10 Patrick Parfrey (22 Guiseppe du Toit 74’), 11 Taylor Paris, 12 Ciaran Hearn, 13 DTH van der Merwe, 14 Brock Staller (23 Kainoa Lloyd 69’), 15 Andrew Coe
Referee: Ian Tempest (RFU)
Assistants: Frank Murphy (IRFU) & Joy Neville (IRFU)