Saturday dawned to a torrent. Rain coming down like the English proverbial ’cats and dogs!’ Another beautiful day in Helsinki! Another great game of rugby to look forward to and another day to test the rain resistance of my new Helly Hansen rain jacket...fantastic!
Arriving at the pitch (I say this loosely...) for the 2pm Kick Off I find the Helsinki lads stretching off on what can only be described as a mud bath. In fact the patches of green I had mistaken for grass were in fact shimmering puddles of water stretched across the mud/weeds of Myllypuros finest allotment yard. We are seriously going to have to have words regarding this! But that's for a later time and a different audience. With our life jackets on and coats used as temporary life rafts we waited on the waterlogged terrace for the game to start.
Helsinki had headed off for the Changing room for a pre-match mental warm up and had left the Turku Eagles hovering around the corner of the pitch. A scratch 15 + 1 Helsinki player (Alexi) had valiantly made it to Helsinki and were facing a tough opposition of 22 up-for-it Helsinki players. But not to be underestimated they hadn’t come here to be beaten. They looked confident and eager to play. Were the Eagles going to prove to much of a bird of prey? Or a bird of clay? Lets see as Helsinki had just returned confidently to the pitch. Game on.
Referee Bro Bannatyne signalled the start of the game a little after 2pm. Turku Kicked off into a confident and ultimately too strong Helsinki side. From the stands it was obvious from the first 5 minutes that Helsinki was going to win and by some margin too. Joonas was the first of many to cross the Eagles try line and shatter their hopes of a victory. Helsinki showed confidence and daring with a good variety of forward and back play. This was mixed with some excellent tactical kicking from a number of the backs including our most divine player! Jarno fielded a beautiful cross field kick under pressure to really mix up play and create havoc with the opposition! The conditions were not ideal to a running game but this did not stop our players from showing off some nifty footwork and handling skills. Joonas exemplified this with an ’up and under’ kick which he then collected himself from a lucky bounce to score under the posts! (He also just texted to remind me to mention his hatrick...definite fine for you next time mate!) It seemed for the first half at least the bounce of the ball was going our way. Turku continued to battle however and tried to cause as much difficulties as possible but Helsinki was just too strong for this under strength west coast team. The huge puddles on the pitch hardly seemed to matter except for one picture moment when Aussie Chris took a splash head first... Quality! The forwards also seemed a little discontent with the waterlogged pitch as in one incident they stood ankle deep in water waiting for a line out and looking forward to moving to drier lands asap!
The half time whistle could not come soon enough for the struggling Turku and it looked like a possible 100 points could up for the taking.
Some tactical speaking and changes at half time allowed players who would be taking up the Tampere challenge next week to get some valued game time. Not too many words were needed as the game was already won by half time. Now it was just a case of gaining as much points as possible.
However this was not to be. From the blow of the second half whistle the cohesion we had seen in the first half began to deteriorate. The numerous changes (although important for next week) had unsettled the winning ways of the team. Handling errors and perhaps a renewed aggression from the hurt but not dead Eagles saw Helsinki under pressure. This half saw only a couple of scores from the Helsinki team and a lot of scrums and line outs. Only after 10 minutes of this half we saw the pressure revealed in an unfortunate accidental binding incident (i am assured!) when Palemia was wrongly identified as ’hitting’ the opposite forward. This led to a quick red card which was later reduced to a yellow. Palemia was quoted saying 'Of course the referee made a fair and proper decision in a well balanced and fully sighted way. He must have misunderstood the forward binding of a right hand on the opposite players shoulder which in hindsight may have been a little to high. I wish both the player and referee all the best but now i must leave quickly and shower.
Well at least that was im sure what he meant... ?
Congratulations to Juhani for the man of the match! Well deserved for his consistent running and tackling and work at the break downs!
So to round off we again saw a determined team flounder in not only a swamp like pitch but against a superior and organised team. Let us hope we see the same spirit and skill next week against Tampere.
Please feel free to add any specific mentions I may have forgotten including all the try scorers as I don’t remember who scored!
Treasurer and observer due to injury....
Match report by Simon Elliott
On the first half Turku was clearly the weaker team and our small mistakes where quickly compensate by our superior speed and tactics.
47-3 at the end of the first half, well deserved on our side with a good defence and a series of good runs. The fact that we were able to recycle the ball quickly gave us good opportunities. The team has tried a lot of new things, quick line out, box kick, house on fire kick and quick passes. This is very encouraging but unfortunately a bit late in the season.
On the second half, we have made a lot of changes, Jussi 9, Ray on the wing and Glenn on the back, Tommi as hooker... too many changes and the team had difficulties to readjust. These changes were necessaries to preserve some players and to prepare next week against Tampere.
We lost many balls and we forgot how to play as a team, ending up in their 22 with no support. The players were getting tired and started to get angry, in that case it is no surprise that some players were caught in tense discussion. This also made the ruck and mauls more messy and less effective.
I see some lights and next week game should be a real nice confrontation worth of a watch.
Match report by Mathieu Nicodeme