Spain gave Patricia García and coach José Antonio Barrio a fitting send-off as they beat Russia 27-0 to claim a ninth Rugby Europe Women’s Championship title.
The defending champions went into Saturday’s match in Madrid on the back of a 69-0 win against the Netherlands in Amsterdam and confident of securing another continental crown.
It took until the 15th minute for Las Leonas to break the deadlock at Campo de Las Terrazas as Lea Ducher profited from some good work from the Spanish forwards to pick a good line and score the first try of the match.
García converted to make it 7-0 but the hosts had to wait until late in the first half to break through the Russian defence again.
In her final appearance in a Spain jersey, it was appropriate that it was García who crossed the whitewash following another good team move.
Anyone expecting the floodgates to open after half-time were disappointed, however, as Russia’s defence held out until the final quarter.
García added a penalty with Anastasiia Chirkova in the sin-bin and as the Russian scrum-half prepared to return to the action, a knock-on from the visitors inside their own 22 led to a try for Anna Puig.
By now García had departed to a standing ovation and so Ducher added the conversion to make it 22-0. There was still time for Zahía Perez to add a fourth try for the hosts to claim a bonus point and add some gloss to the scoreline.
“It was a very hard game, but we are really happy to get this win and I thought the team played really well,” Spain captain Laura Delgado said.
“We have young players coming through who are really stepping up to the mark and we are delighted to win the title again.”
Victory gave Spain an unassailable 10-point lead at the top of the Rugby Europe Women’s Championship 2022 standings with only Russia’s match against the Netherlands left to play.
It also kept Las Leonas 10th in the World Rugby Women’s Rankings powered by Capgemini, while Russia remain in 14th.
“I have been so proud to represent my country for so long and to wear this Spanish jersey one more time is something I am very grateful for,” retiring Spain great García said.
“Now it is time for the younger players to come through, but for sure I am going to miss it.”