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Spain scores early and often in men's rugby win over Canada

Rugby Canada vs Spain Rugby Canada vs Spain - Rugby Canada (@RugbyCanada)

VILLAJOYOSA, Spain — Spain ran in five tries in the first half en route to a 42-20 win over Canada on Saturday at the four-team La Vila International Rugby Cup.

The 18th-ranked Americans beat No. 26 Brazil 48-3 in the opening game of Saturday's doubleheader at El Pantano Stadium.

The 23rd-ranked Canadian men will face Brazil next Saturday to decide third place. The U.S. will meet No 19, Spain in the final.

Tani Bay scored two tries and Ekain Imaz, Gonzalo Lopez, Martiniano Cian and Marcos Muniz added singles for Spain, which led 35-6 at the half. Inaki Mateu, kicked six conversions.

Cole Keith and Mitch Richardson scored tries for Canada. Peter Nelson kicked two penalties and two conversions for Canada.

“We are really disappointed," said Canada coach Kingsley Jones. "It’s imperative to start well in test matches and we failed to do that again.

"To put in a good performance in the second half and such a poor performance in the first half is really disappointing. We compounded errors and were on the wrong end of a few 50-50 calls, but we need to make sure we respond positively and move onto the next job quickly."

Canada also fell behind early when the two teams met in July 2022 in Ottawa.

Spain led 40-13 at the half on the strength of six tries and went on to win 57-34. The Canadians had a 21-17 scoring edge in the second half but by then the hole was too deep.

Saturdays match was the first for the Canadian men since 28-3 and 36-12 losses in August to No. 16 Tonga, which was preparing for the World Cup.

Canada, with a stiff wind at its back, went ahead 3-0 in the fourth minute on a Nelson penalty.

But the Spanish answered quickly and led 14-3 in the 14th minute after a pair of converted tries by Bay, an Argentine-born scrum half. Soon after, Canada lost veteran prop Djustice Sears-Duru to injury.

Another Nelson penalty cut the margin to 14-6 in the 28th minute.

Imaz took advantage of some poor Canadian tackling to score two minutes later, with the conversion stretching the lead to 21-6, Cian added another converted try just before halftime.

Canada was reduced to 14 men for 10 minutes in the 36th minute when Nelson was sent to the sin bin for a deliberate knock-on. Spain made the most of the man-advantage and some sloppy Canada tackling with Gonzalo Lopez touching down two minutes later.

Keith and Richards scored converted tries to cut the deficit in the second half. But a final Spanish try with time winding down.

Canada's matchday 23 Saturday featured includes 18 MLR players, including nine from the MLR champion New England Free Jacks and four from the Toronto Arrows.

It marked the first Canada start for New England centre Gabe Casey, who made his debut off the bench against Tonga.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 11, 2023