Brits upset Finns in 2017 IFAF Women’s World Championships opener

Great Britain, who lost to Team Finland 50-12 in the 2015 European Championships, turned the tables in the first game of the Women’s World Championship held yesterday at McLeod Stadium in Langley, beating Finland 27-21.

The Finns scored first when QB Jonna Hakkarainen threw a 20 yard TD pass to Emmi Jarn. Sanni Seppala added the extra point. This might have brought back memories of two years ago, but the British scored quickly on a long run by Ruth Matta, and Jayne Meddows extra point tied the game with 4:51 left in the first.

With 5:24 left in the first half, the Finns converted a fourth down, but fumbled on the next play at the British 43. The British stopped the next Finnish attempt to convert a fourth down, and with 3 seconds left in the half, Jessica Anderson caught a 50 yard TD pass from Jo Kilby, and after the conversion failed, the British went into halftime with a 13-7 lead.

The British defense, which kept Hakkarainen on the run all day, scored the first TD of the second half when Lucy Kirk intercepted a pass and ran it 50+ yards back to take Britain up 21-7, after Ruth Matta added the 2 point conversion. Finland came back when Kristi Nirhamo caught a 25 yard score from Hakkarainen to draw within seven. Britain struck again when Kilby found Anderson for a long touchdown pass, but once again the PAT failed.

With the score 27-14, the Finns began to come back. Hakkarainen connected with Jarn again, this time for 10 yards to close the gap to 27-21. Hanna Pye recovered the onside kick for the British, but they had to punt it away. The Finns’ final drive made it to the British 5 yard line, but two runs by Jenni Linden failed to find the end zone. The Finnish coaching staff let 17 crucial seconds run off the clock, and the game ended with a British victory.

When asked what the difference was between this year and 2015, a British coach mentioned that the previous game was their first experience in international championships. Linden was awarded the player of the game for the Finns, and Kirk for the British.

An advantage that the British team had throughout the game was their 12th woman. A relatively large group of 20 or so fans traveled with the team, led by a man dressed in British colors (during the second half he wore the flag) who pounded on trash cans and maintained a steady chatter supporting the team. Perhaps that was another difference.

Russ Crawford
Russ Crawford is an Associate Professor of History at Ohio Northern University in Ada, OH. The University of Nebraska Press published his book Le Football: The History of American Football in France in 2016. He is currently working on a project exploring the history of women's football.
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