Midnight Rugby Tournament kicked off for the eleventh time on June 17, 2011 with the hosts, Helsinki Rugby Club taking on Swedish visitors FC Lagamba. Over the next two days 54 matches were played in total by the 16 teams from 8 countries including our first visitors from Switzerland!
Women's rugby in Finland had one of its best seasons in 2011 with the national team competing all over Europe, and Midnight Rugby was looking to grow the women's tournament, and help the national team. The women's competition was the biggest ever with visiting teams from Scotland and Switzerland, and the national team used Midnight Rugby as a warm up for the European championships in Bucharest in July.
While the men play 10-a-side rugby, the women were playing 7s. Rugby 7s has been introduced to the Olympics and with Finland women in the top class in Europe there is a real chance Finland will be represented in rugby in Rio 2016!
The women played two rounds of matches against each other, with finals played on Saturday. Our guests from Switzerland and Scotland added some colour to the tournament and were a good test for the two national teams. In the end though, the strength of Finnish women's rugby was proven with both teams - Moomins and Barbababas - reaching the final. This was a very promising result as the Dundee University team has players playing for Scotland in the Six Nations, and the Swiss Wildcats also have international players in their ranks!
Moomins had a very narrow win in their semi final against Dundee University, while the Barbababas beat the Wildcats, who already had one eye on the after party!
Barbababas beat Moomins in a close final to take the Baltic Plate!
With 11 teams in the men's division a random draw was made with each team playing four games on Friday evening to get the rankings for Saturday's knock out matches.
We had our highest ever number of Finnish teams at Midnight Rugby which goes to show the growth in rugby in Finland. Finnish champions Warriors RC came through Friday unbeaten, as did 2010 Finnish Cup runners up Rauma Ice Pack, and Latvian visitors RFC Livonia - at Midnight Rugby for the third time - looked much stronger this year winning four out of four!
The Finland Old Boys team returned to competitive rugby after a six year break, giving a chance for some of Finland's more experienced players to pull on their boots again. The Old Boys had a shaky start but picked up two wins with some very fine rugby played at times!
Reporters Sans Manière, a group of journalists from Paris were enjoying their time in Helsinki with many of them looking forward to a trip to the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand later in the year!
After some tough games on Friday evening and early night is best for those wishing to do well on Saturday - some advice that not many teams heed!
Matches kicked off early on Saturday as the teams show up bleary eyed, but still ready for another day of rugby!
Finland's good showing continued with three of the four quarter finals won by Finnish teams.
There was a three way match for the wooden spoon - the traditional prize for the worst team. After three halves of rugby our Swedish visitors RFC Lagamba took the spoon, and considering their young and not too numerous team were very pleased to not go home empty handed!
With the pitch side sauna being put to full use and the food and merchandise tents being kept busy we got down to the serious end of the tournament.
RFC Livonia and Helsinki RC played in the wooden spoon match in 2010 but this year they met in the Plate semi final. Livonia overcame the hosts to set up a meeting with Warriors after they beat Rauma Ice Pack narrowly.
The finals kicked off with Lahti Sisu beating Tallinn Sharks 29-7 to take the Baltic Bowl, while Rauma Ice Pack beat Helsinki to take the Baltic Cup.
With a good sized crowd watching the final saw Warriors beat Livonia 24-5 to become the first Finnish team to win the Baltic Plate in a long time!
Finnish Barbababas - Baltic Plate winners
Finnish Moomins - Baltic Plate runners up
Dundee University (SCO)
Wildcats RC (SUI)
Warriors RC - Baltic Plate winners
Livonia RFC (LAT) - Baltic Plate runners up
Rauma Ice Pack - Baltic Cup winners
Helsinki Rugby Club
Lahti Sisu - Baltic Bowl winners
Tallinn Sharks (EST)
Finland Old Boys
Ahmat - Finland U20s
Reporters Sans Manière (FRA)
FC Lagamba (SWE) - Wooden Spoon