A much-improved second-half display from Spain set them up nicely for a winner-takes-all encounter with Samoa for top spot in Pool B next Tuesday after defeating Kenya 48-18.
Raúl Pérez’s team should have been more than 17-15 up at half-time, but countless handling errors in good scoring positions cost them the chance to carve out a healthier advantage.
However, they were much more clinical after the break adding five tries to the three they scored in the first half while also restricting Kenya to just three points.
It was Kenya who scored the first points of the match in the eighth minute to set the home fans singing, George Otieno crashing over from a lineout drive.
Like their handling, Spain’s misfiring lineout was also causing issues but they got back on level terms when they converted their third meaningful foray into the Kenya 22 into a try for full-back Gabriel Rocaries.
Beau Finnian Peart flung a long pass out to the left and winger Mario Coronado Mico managed to get an offload away to Rocaries who dotted down but not before having a bit of a juggle.
Peart slotted a good touchline conversion to cancel out Faran Juma’s two-pointer earlier in the piece and the scores were level at 7-7.
However, Spain allowed the restart kick to bounce into the touch and then compounded the error by not throwing in straight at the lineout. That enabled Kenya to pressurise the Spanish line with a series of drives by the forwards and, eventually, Geylord Ngasi got another try for the front-row union.
Spain continued to look the more dangerous in open play whenever they kept hold of the ball and Peart benefitted from quick ruck ball to squeeze between Juma and Victor Odhiambo and score Spain’s second try, which went unconverted to keep the scores at 12-12.
A few minutes later, Diego Gonzalez handed Spain the lead for the first time when he went route one and crashed over from a maul.
Juma’s penalty from in front of the posts reduced the deficit to just two points, but Spain should have had the try bonus-point in the bag just before half-time but number eight Ignacio Pineiro Molla added to the catalogue of handling errors when he spilt the ball on what had appeared to be on an unstoppable run to the line.
The theme continued at the start of the second half as a knock-on at the base of the ruck by scrum-half and captain Pablo Perez Merono meant another free-flowing move came to nothing.
However, there was no stopping replacement hooker Alvaro Garcia Albo when he broke away from a driving maul to score Spain’s fourth try, Peart converting from close to the touchline.
After a lengthy injury break, play resumed in the same vain – with Spain having all the territory and possession – and their ball retention was much better by now, resulting in four more tries being scored.
Eloy De La Pisa went over after Kenya ran out of numbers in defence following a sustained Spanish attack and then, around the hour mark, Rocaries scored the pick of the lot, racing onto an inside ball from Peart to get his second of the match and fourth of the tournament.
Kenya opted to kick at goal despite trailing by 23 points and Juma showed his prowess with the boot by knocking over a long-range penalty for a 38-18 scoreline.
But then Juma had his clearance kick from the restart charged down by Javier Lopez de Haro who went on to score.
There was still time for a second try for Gonzalez but Spain were denied a second half-century of the tournament, after their 53-0 win over Hong Kong China in round one, when replacement kicker Marcel Sirvent’s conversion crashed against the post and stayed out.