Team Finland dug themselves a deep hole in the third quarter of their final game of the IFAF 2019 Women’s European Championships against the Great Britain Lions at John Charles Stadium in Leeds, England, but managed to turn the game around and score two late touchdowns to scrape together enough points to capture the gold. Great Britain still won the game 18-14 but it was not enough to make up the points difference they needed and Finland came away as IFAF 2019 Women’s European champs.
The was the second European title for Finland in a row. The Finns won gold at the 2015 IFAF Women’s European Championship in Granada, Spain.
The British squad needed to win by six points or more to gain the title after Finland, Great Britain and Sweden were tied with two wins each, one each against each other.
For much of the game it looked like they would do it too. Britain took a 12-0 halftime lead and extended it to 18-0 in the third quarter before the Finnish offense came alive.
It was Great Britain’s Ruth Matta versus Finland’s Tytti Kuusinen in this one. Both running backs carried the load for their respective teams, as they had done all tournament long.
Matta carried the ball 13 times for 128 yards and two touchdowns while Kuusinen had 13 carries for 109 yards and the crucial final touchdown.
After a scoreless first quarter with Great Britain having an edge in field position, Matta finally struck. She capped a beautiful march, getting around the corner from the 10 yard line and scampered in for the game’s first touchdown. Then, after a Finnish punt to midfield on the next series, Great Britain’s quarterback Sydney Green found a streaking Emma Taylor and hit her in stride for a 60 yard touchdown and suddenly Britain held a 12-0 lead after the two-point conversion failed.
Those missed extra points would prove to be crucial though.
Midway through the third quarter, Kuusinen fumbled the ball at midfield and Britain took over on their own 40 yard line. Two plays later, Matta found a seam and then outraced all the Finnish defenders to score a 57 yard touchdown to give Britain a seemingly insurmountable 18-0 lead.
Finland then mounted a beautiful 66 yard drive culminating with Janina Virtanen’s seven yard touchdown. Sanni Seppälä kicked the extra point and suddenly Finland trailed by only 11, 18-7 with five minutes left in the game.
The Finnish defense then made a stand forcing a punt at midfield on the next Lions possession. Finland’s special teams blocked the punt giving the Finns the ball at the GB 30 yard line.
The next drive saw a crucial pass interference call give Finland the ball on the five yard line. Three plays later Kuusinen punched the ball in. The extra point was good and the score was reduced to 18-14. That was all the cushion Finland needed.
Great Britain drove down to the Finnish 30 yard line but a bad snap turned a 3rd and 5 to a 4th and 19. Sydney Green’s desperation pass went incomplete and Finland took over with a minute to go and simply ran the clock out.
With the score and based on the slightly convoluted tie-breaker rules, Finland was crowned IFAF Women’s European Champions with Sweden winning the silver medal. The Swedes had defeated Austria 48-6 earlier in the day. Great Britain had to settle for the third place bronze medal.