Derby final culminates the season

Rugby season ends next Saturday in Kuopio with men’s championship final HRC versus Warriors. The game is a clash of neighbours as well as two different styles of play.

It’s the fourth time in the last five years that the Helsinki clubs meet in the final, so a season-ending derby is beginning to be the standard. Last season was the exception with HRC beating the Warriors in the semifinals and losing to Jyväskylä in the final.

In the last weekend’s semifinals HRC knocked out the Tallinn team Kalev while the regular season winners Warriors beat the reigning champions Jyväskylä. Both Helsinki teams have lost only two of their eleven games so far which makes them more than worthy finalists. During the regular season only Kalev was able to keep pace  with the duo but was left third in the last stretch. The Warriors won the first Helsinki derby 32-17 in the midsummer heat but the Big Guns were able to return the favor a month ago with a 25-20 win.

Different styles

The final sees two teams with different styles of play. HRC  plays backs-oriented rugby with pace and set moves with the ball, while the Warriors rely on their seasoned front eight, set pieces and precision kicking from the Mister Warrior Tumppi Finell. The yellow shirts can start a pick and go cycle from deep within their own half relying in the opposition to cause a penalty first and allow them to gain ground through penalty kicks.

HRC is the best team in the country when it comes to attacking in open play or against a disorganised defense, but broken play with lots of stops is kryptonite to the team. In both two earlier meetings this season the Big Guns’ offensive game has been crippled by an enormous penalty count. In the first game it was too much to handle, but in the latter the blue defense held in the added pressure.

Thriller finish likely again

HRC’s recipe for winning the title is simple: the amount of infringements in the tackle and in the rucks has to be cut to the bare minimum. As long as the game keeps flowing, the attacking rhythm is easier to find. Also when the opportunity presents itself, the Big Guns need to be ready to launch a quick counterattack and force the Warriors forwards to run towards their own try line. The Warriors are at home in broken play, when they are able to dictate the tempo and use their set-piece skills to maximum advantage. The team is extremely hard to stop when it gets its forwards ready in the offensive 22 area.

With all likelihood the final will be a level fight with suspense lasting to the final plays. The three earlier finals between the teams have been won with an average margin of five points.

Men’s Finnish champions in rugby:

2002 – HRC
2003 – HRC
2004 – Jyväskylä
2005 – Jyväskylä
2006 – Tampere
2007 – Tampere
2008 – Warriors
2009 – Warriors
2010 – Warriors
2011 – Warriors
2012 – Warriors
2013 – Tampere
2014 – HRC (HRC-Warriors 12-5)
2015 – Warriors (Warriors-HRC 7-5)
2016 – HRC (HRC-Warriors 21-15)
2017 – Jyväskylä

Text: Mika Huopainen
Photo: Heikki Piisku Photography