Belgian Barbarians edge Team Spain in controversial win

The Belgian Barbarians came from behind to edge Team Spain 18-16 Saturday at Mijnstadion in Beringen, Belgium in a game that ended in controversy.

With three seconds left on the clock, the Spaniards kicked what looked like the game-winning field goal from 33 yards out. The officials ruled the ball was just wide and handed the victory to Team Belgium. While Belgium began celebrating the Spanish coaches raced to confront the Belgian officiating crew, insisting the kick was good.

The ending marred what had been a thrilling, hard-fought game filled with turnovers.

Belgian quarterback Tomasz Firszt threw a pair of touchdown passes to tight end Mike Schoonheyt and linebacker Kevin Van de Wiele returned a blocked punt for a touchdown to account for Belgium’s scoring.

Belgian TE Mike Schoonheyt en route to one of his two TDs Photo: Bob de Calonne

Team Spain’s defense and special teams handled all the scoring with safety Jagoba Lopez Heras scoring on a 90 yard pick six, Jaume Llinos Bescos kicked a 24 yard field goal and David Chaves Jimenez returned a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown.

Neither offense could gain any momentum with Spain opening the scoring as Lopez Heras picked off Firszt on his own five yard line and raced 95 yards to give Spain a 7-0 lead.

However, the Spanish were tagged with two 15 yard penalties on the touchdown (one for excessive celebration and one for a face mask). This gave Belgium excellent field position following the kickoff and Schoonheyt made them pay hauling in a 50 yard touchdown pass from Firszt. The PAT was no good and the first quarter ended with Spain leading 7-6.

Both defenses stiffened in the second and third quarters with Belgium picking off the Spanish quarterback four times while Spain intercepted Firszt once. However, Belgium fumbled the ball away twice one of which Spanish kicker capitalized on with a 25 yard field goal giving Spain a 10-6 lead entering the action-filled fourth quarter.

Team Belgium defense gave Spanish running backs no room to run Photo: Bob de Calonne

First, Belgian defensive end Sylvain Yondjouen blocked a Spanish punt deep in Team Spain territory and Van de Wiele returned it 15 yards to give Belgium its first lead, 12-10. Then, Yondjouen again made a huge play, forcing a Spanish fumble which was recovered by Dylan Pierquin on the Spanish 32 yard line. Spain regained possession a couple of plays later on an interception but were unable to move the ball.

The Belgian offense finally found some traction, with Schoonheyt getting in behind the Spanish secondary catching a 55 yard touchdown pass from Firszt, extending Belgium’s lead to 18-10 with less than three minutes remaining.

Spain responded on the ensuing kickoff as David Chaves Jimenez weaved and raced to a 95 yard touchdown, closing the gap to 18-16 with plenty of time left to play.

Team Spain then forced another Belgian punt and regained possession.  With not much time remaining, they had one touchdown called back on a holding penalty which set up the game’s final dramatics.

This was the second win for the Belgians over Spain in two years. Next up for the Belgian Barbarians is Team Russia on October 21 in Belgium.




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