Come back win for the Big Guns

HRC’s final game in the men’s championship’s regular season was a thrilling show where the Big Guns made a big comeback to victory. HRC’s second half surge led to a 24-21 win over the host Kuopio.

It was clear before the game that a win would secure Kuopio’s place in the championship. The home team came to the game with intention and forced HRC to a midfield wrestling match. A couple of consecutive penalties allowed Kuopio to edge close to the try line and the hosts did not leave the opportunity unused. HRC quickly struck back with a dashing counterattack that ended with the captain Dario Forneris touching down. After the try penalties forced HRC again back to defend its own 22-metre area. The hosts were able to breach the defense after a yellow card to Wertti Bask and moved to 14-5 lead. More came a few moments later when a careless pass in the backline was intercepted by the home team. Suddenly the score was 21-5 and HRC looked rattled. The Big Guns weren’t able to pick up their game but the closing minutes of the half brought no more setbacks.

A completely revitalized HRC ran to the pitch in the second half and the game was pushed to the other end straight from the start. Relentless pressure brought a result after 10 minutes, as Wertti Bask broke through to score with conversion kicked in by Joonas Bask. After the try Kuopio also had a chance to try attacking, but less than ten minutes later HRC’s quick counterattack struck again. Anton Nevalainen made a 40-metre break from the right flank and Luke Parsons carried the ball over close to the corner flag. The try brought HRC to within four points 17-21. Five minutes later it was the flyhalf Jake Pratley’s turn to find a hole in the Kuopio defensive line. Joonas Bask’s second conversion of the day extra moved HRC to a two-point lead which held to the end. HRC was able to control the game in the opposite for the last minutes frustrating the hosts’ efforts to hit back.

– Kuopio started the game well and capitalized on our errors. It took us some time to adapt and to make sure we are doing our basic jobs first. Although we didn’t want to be trailing at half time, it gave us a great opportunity as a team to challenge ourselves to come back from a big deficit. I think the pressure of being behind brought out a more determined team in the second half. We knew we were better than what we had showed in the first half. The team stayed composed and eventually we got ourselves ahead through a collective team effort and team spirit, HRC’s player-coach Jake Pratley said.

After ten regular season games HRC leads the series with 39 points before the Warriors (37) and Kalev Tallinn (35). The pursuers meet next Saturday in Tallinn, and at least one of the teams will go past HRC in the rankings. In the hairiest scenario all three teams end up level in points which would mean drops to third and loses the home advantage to the semifinals.

The defeat was bitter to Kuopio and the team has to wait until next weekend to see whether they play in the championship also next season.

Kuopio – HRC 21-24 (21-5)

Tries: Dario Forneris, Wertti Bask, Luke Parsons and Jake Pratley
Converssions: Joonas Bask (2)
Yellow card: Wertti Bask

1 Ville Vikman
2 Emmanuel Courbin
3 Chris Denholm
4 Ilja Prohorov
5 Jesperi Virtanen
6 Paulo Pannuzzo
7 Antti Järvenpää
8 Wertti Bask
9 Dyllan Hey
10 Dario Forneris (C)
11 Anton Nevalainen
12 Riku Lempiö
13 Joonas Bask
14 Mika Takala
15 Luke J Parsons

Substitutes: Michael Blakley, Samuel Kuutti, Ville Siiskonen, David O’Connor, Jarno Warsa-Ritaranta, Jake Pratley and Saxby Young

Text: Mika Huopainen
Original photo: Aki Pentikäinen