The Finnish men’s rugby national team have scored their first ever international win against Denmark with a 22-18 victory in Helsinki on Saturday afternoon.
But it was a far-from-decisive result against the Danes, who played a more physical game, looked fitter all round, and had better ball handling skills than the home side.
Finland, ranked 99th out of 105 teams by World Rugby, spent long periods of the game camped near the Danish try line but failed to turn this into a clear lead, as the scores inched up neck and neck in a game that didn’t set Myllypuro sports park on fire. Denmark is ranked 79th in the world.
The star of the Finnish team was Kuopio Rugby Club’s Jussi Viljanen who scored two tries, two conversions and a penalty goal to snag 17 of Finland’s points.
However, it was three second half substitutes who played key roles in the slender Finnish victory: Helsinki Rugby Club’s Chris Denholm added some much-needed aggression in the forwards; Porvoo Old Town Shamrocks’ young second row Shane Breen scored an important try; while Espoo Rugby’s Panu Leinonen had a match-saving tackle mere meters from the try line in the final minutes of the game, after a Danish player had broken through the Finnish defense.
In an earlier match, the Finnish women’s national team lost 5 – 20 to a strong Swiss side.