Nobody likes a 5am start... but we had a good turnout at Kiasma for the long drive northeast to Joensuu (even if Thierry, Steve and Jared had to sprint to catch the bus as we drove away!).
This was the first time rugby debutants Joensuu had hosted a tournament - which coincided with Ilosaarirock festival - and all the eastern division clubs sent teams: Porvoo, Kotka, Warrios, Joensuu and HRC.
After winning the previous two tournaments, this one was ours to lose. And yes, we somehow managed to lose. This was all the more surprising considering the number of 1st team players who made the trip and put on an HRC jersey.
Our first opponents were Joensuu and we started the tournament off with a strong win 24-0 against the hosts. Next came Warriors and we also won that match convincingly 17-5. Then we hit a bump in the road as Porvoo put up a big fight and we battled to a losing low score of 5-7 against a side which has really improved during the season. Our last match was against Kotka and some flowing rugby - maybe the best we played all day - saw us triumph 49-7.
Despite the end results - Porvoo notched up their first ever tournament victory as a club at our expense - this was a good day for the development of rugby in Finland. We showed some good sportsmanship by loaning a few players to other teams; we saw tangible improvements from the new clubs Porvoo, Joensuu and Kotka; and Joensuu had the experience of hosting the other clubs in our division for the first time.
So as we travelled back down to Helsinki, another 5+ hours on the bus, the stage was set for our own tournament in August... which we'd have to win to maintain home team pride.
Match report by David Mac Dougall