THE 2017 Rugby League World Cup qualifying process got underway in Latvia on Saturday 9 May, when the Latvian Rugby League team hosted Spain in the first qualifying game of the tournament in a European Championship C qualifying tie.
And Spain will join Malta and Greece in the next phase of the qualifiers later this summer after defeating their hosts 32-12 at the Upesciema Stadions, Upesciems, just outside the Latvian capital Riga.
The winners of that tournament this summer will become one of six European nations aiming to take three qualifying berths for the next World Cup in Australia and New Zealand in two years’ time.
Spanish winger Hector D’Alessandro was the star, scoring an eleven-minute first-half hat-trick the difference.
The Spaniards were also well served by fullback Daniel Garcia, who claimed ten points, and backrower Matt Dulley.
“It was a very difficult game,” said Spain coach Darren Fisher.
“Latvia came very strongly but I couldn’t be prouder of the players. They showed the passion and believed in themselves and that’s what carried us through to victory.
“It’s a great stepping stone for us and our development and an honour for all the people back home watching the game. We had to show great courage and to move on to the next stage is massive.”
Both sets of players held a minute’s silence for former Keighley stand-off Danny Jones following his death last weekend.
“We were disappointing in the first half,” said Latvian head coach Vilmars Sokolovs.
“We knew the Spanish would start well and they caught us going to the flanks.
“After the break we were much better and the game was a good contest but he first half was crucial. We feel positive about the future for Rugby League development here. We will be better for the next World Cup.”
LATVIA 20-MAN SQUAD
Inguss Aivars, Imants Liepa (RC Eži), Jānis Kaucis, Kristaps Lusins, Dāvis Bajārs, Janis Strads (RC Fēnikss), Aivis Ašmanis, Elviss Češķis, Helvijs Vičivskis (Grobina Vikings), Toms Asejevs, Armands Brovackis, Raimonds Kripa (Kekava Warriors), Edgars Liepājnieks, Matīss Vācietis (RC Livonia), Aleksandrs Kalodinaitis, Rihards Lonskis, Mārtiņš Rauziņš (RC Mītava), Kristaps Bērze, Vjačeslavs Jurinovs, Mikus Ozols (RC Sigulda)
SPAIN 17-MAN SQUAD
Hector D’Alessandro (Alcoià Comtat) , Alejandro Gordon, Diego Lagunas, Gonzalo Morro, Ezequiel Pérez-Fuster (Ciencias XIII Valencia), Hugo García (Custodians Madrid), Ivan Ordaz, Matt Dulley (Irreductibles Mislata), Alex Doutres (Palau XIII), Aitor Dàvila (Tigres Torrent), Adrià Alonso, Andrew Pilkington, Carlos Aragonés, Christian Domínguez, Luis Thorp, Ximo Fraile (Valencian Warriors), Daniel Garcia (Woolston Rovers).
European Championship C Fixtures
September 26 Spain v Malta Valencia
October 10 Malta v Greece Marsa
October 17 Greece v Spain Athens