The Midnight Rugby Tournament (MRT) was hosted by the Helsinki Rugby Union Football Club (HRC) for the third time as the MRT 18-19 June 2010. Previous incarnations of the MRT existed under the name of the Baltic Plate, and had been held to coincide with the conclusion of the Finnish Domestic Rugby Season in October. With some fresh thinking and the desire to introduce more foreign teams, HRC moved their tournament to mid summer in 2008, to take advantage of two significant facts:
All in all, 19 teams from eight different countries were registered for the MRT to be held at Myllypuro Sports Park in Helsinki. Unfortunately men's teams from St Petersberg and Tampere, as well as one women's team from Jyväskylä cancelled in the last five days before the tournament. This required a rapid reorganisation of the pools and games.
With the late sunset, there was no requirement to start play until 1630. This also allowed teams to arrive into Helsinki on the Friday as well. The men's teams were split into three pools, where each team played three teams (except for one pool, who had one more team and therefore one more game). The women's pool featured eventually featured two Finnish teams and a British team out of the University of East Anglia. All teams played each other once on Friday, then again on Saturday in the Olympic 7s format.
The weather was fantastic allowing some fantastic rugby being played and in magnificent sprit. The pool results allowed all teams to be ranked and set up Saturday to be a knockout play day. But to ensure the other teams couldn’t complain about a lack of hospitality, they were all bussed back to the city where The Tiger nightclub in Kamppi opened their doors . Some players were rumoured to have left the island at 3am…
Saturday dawned spectacularly fine, and teams straggled into Myllypuro Sports Park with the first kick off having to be delayed by 30 minutes. Whilst reasons had been given such as late bus arrivals, uncertainty with the metro system and poor taxi supply, one only has to wonder how well the local bars did after the tournament left However, we kicked off with all teams and to a bang. The fine rugby that had been played the previous night continued, and even though some teams only played once or twice during the entire day, the festival atmosphere continued all day. This was aided with the arrival of the pitch side sauna, a belly sliding competition and approximately 250 curious Finns wondering who was disturbing their Saturday peace. Even the local police turned up with rare smiles.
Junior rugby was played between two domestic teams, Turku and a Finnish Barbarians team composed of players from Helsinki and Lahti. Two games were played to incorporate the juniors as part of the tournament, with the first game being won by the Barbarians 25-15, and the second game being a 15-15 draw.
Final results after a spectacular two days of rugby were (in order of ranking):
Baltic Wooden Spoon - Helsinki Rugby Club
Baltic Shield - Old Albanians 2 (England)
Baltic Bowl - Tallinn Sharks (Estonia)
Baltic Cup - Old Albanians 1 (England)
Baltic Plate (Champions) - Les Kebabs (France)
Women's Champions - Helsinki Rugby Club
Of particular note was the performance of the Lahti Sisu team who consistently lived up to their name playing a hard game of rugby and never backing down, and also the fantastic sportsmanship displayed by the Italian team Mastini Opera who agreed to play the game against the eventual champions late, rather than leave the decision to the rule makers. Both teams demonstrated the true values of rugby where hard work, dedication and above all, sportsmanship, come first.
Helsinki RC - Baltic Plate winners
University of East Anglia
Les Kebabs, Drancy - Baltic Plate winners
Herford Rhinos - Baltic Plate runners up
Old Albanians - Baltic Cup winners
Lahti Sisu - Baltic Cup runners up
Tallinn Sharks - Baltic Bowl winners
Old Albanians 2 - Baltic Shield winners
West Coast Barbarians
Helsinki Rugby Club - Wooden Spoon