2018 IFAF European Championships: Team Finland opens tournament with win over Great Britain

Team Finland took advantage of a powerful running attack to bowl over the Great Britain Lions, beating them 28-7 on the opening day of the 2018 IFAF European Championships at Vantaa, Finland.

All the points in the game were scored in the first half as both defenses took control of the game after the break.

Finland outgained the Lions by a wide margin in the first 24 minutes of play with 284 yards of offense compared to 38 for Britain. The Finnish running backs rushed for 203 of those yards while Great Britain was held to -3.

Finnish running back Karri Pajarinen had 10 carries for 89 yards and a touchdown to lead all rushers while teammate Hanri Jussila rushed for 82 yards on 10 carries. Quarterback Janne Lehtinen threw for 113 yards. Other touchdown scorers for Finland were Veikka Lehtonen andTuukka Lehtonen as well as Joonas Raatikainen on a fumble recovery in the end zone.

Finland’s Akseli Olin celebrating a sack Photo: Samppa Toivonen

For Great Britain, defensive back and kick returner Josh Amis was a standout scoring the Lions only touchdown on and 87 yard interception return and generally causing punt coverage problems for the Finns all game long. Amis was named Britain’s game MVP. A trio of quarterbacks saw action for Great Britain as starter James Slack gave way to Patrick Daley in the second half who then was relieved by Brad Thompson. None of the three were able to get their team into the end zone despite several forays into the red zone.

With both teams playing tentatively early on, Team Finland finally mounted a 70 yard drive with Vekka Lehtonen capping it with a nine yard run to take a 7-0 lead as the first quarter ended.

Amis tied it two minutes later with Finland looking poised to score again. He picked off a Lehtinen pass at the 13 yard line, literally ripping it out of the hands of the receiver, and dodged and weaved and then raced 87 yards for the touchdown.

The Finns wasted no time on the next drive, taking just four plays to reach the end zone. Vekka Lehtonen and Pajarinen alternated with Tukka Lehtonen punching the ball in from the  three yard line to put Finland out in front, 14-7.

Amis committed his only error in the game on the ensuing kickoff, as he took a knee just outside the end zone by mistake giving his team horrible field position on the one yard line. Then, a fumble in the back field on the next play gave Finland another touchdown and suddenly the Finns were leading 21-7 still early in the second quarter.

The British offense could not move the ball and Finland took over at their own 29 yard line with plenty of time on the clock. Behind the running of Pajarinen and Jussila, Finland drove to the British 20 yard line with Pajarinen carrying the ball in from there and Finland extended the lead to 28-7 going into the half.

GB DB Josh Amis Photo: Samppa Toivonen

A different Great Britain team took the field in the second half with a defense that found its rhythm. Finland was only able to gain two first downs the rest of the way while Great Britain’s offense advanced to the Finnish four yard line, 19 yard line and the 11 without being able to score.

Another Amis interception went for naught as he returned it all the way to the 20 yard line but then fumbled it back to Finland.

So Finland came away with an all important win and now will face Team France on Thursday, August 2. Meanwhile Great Britain will take on the French on Tuesday July 31.

Watch the highlights here.

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