VIDEO: Spanish turn on ref as Romania qualify for RWC2019
WORLD CUP SHOCK IN EUROPE: Romania have qualified for Rugby World Cup 2019 after a dramatic finale to the Rugby Europe Championship on Sunday.
However, celebrations have been marred by ugly scenes at the Belgium Spain match, when Spanish players surrounded the Romanian referee, Vlad Iordachescu.
There has been no little controversy over the choice of a Romanian referee in a match that directly affected Romania’s qualification for the Rugby World Cup, and questions have been raised as to how this situation was allowed develop by World Rugby.
In the driving seat with a game in hand over Romania, Spain needed to defeat Belgium in the final round of European qualification matches to confirm their participation at a Rugby World Cup for the first time since 1999.
However, Belgium raced into a 15-0 lead and, despite a late fightback, Los Leones could not finish the job off, losing 18-10, meaning they will now face the play-off route.
It was on the final whistle however that Spain’s players surrounding the referee, who had to be protected by the Belgium players before being escorted off the pitch.
Romania, who lost 16-25 to Georgia in a match that did not count towards qualification, will join Six Nations champions Ireland, Scotland, host Japan and the Play-Off winner in Pool A.
Reward also comes in the form of playing Japan in the opening match at the Toyota Stadium on September 20, 2019.
Despite the loss, Spain are confirmed as the second-placed team in European qualification and must now play Portugal for the right to play Samoa in the home and away fixtures.
The winner on aggregate will join Romania in Pool A as the Play-Off winner, while the loser will participate in the four-team Repechage in November against Canada and two their teams.
Social media was quick to hint at dark conspiracy theories given the nationality of the man overseeing a qualifier involving a team in direct competition with his country's own World Cup bid.
And 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.
Spain's coach Santiago Santos was equally put out.
"Our game was stopped continuously, the Belgians benefited from many more decisions," he said after struggling to calm down his incensed players at the final whistle with even the Belgian players coming to Iordachescu's rescue.
Spanish back Brad Linklater pointed to the "Belgian aggression and irregular tackling that went unpunished" by the man in the middle who was appointed by Rugby Europe.
Linklater did go on to acknowledge that his side "had not produced their best rugby"
Agence France-Presse & Rugbypass
Video Credit: faastfoood