The World Wheelchair Rugby European Championship Qualifiers 2022 at Skien Sports and Activity Park, Moflatvegen, Norway got underway today for the Irish Wheelchair Rugby team as they played Finland in their tournament opener.
Straight out of the box the Irish found themselves on the back foot as the Finns won the tip-off and scored their opening try from the subsequent possession. Early Finland pressure on Irish inbounds forced the Irish to use their player timeouts to help break the press. The tactic worked and the game didn’t stretch beyond a two-point lead for either side for the entirety of the half. With only 30 seconds remaining, the Finns found themselves with a player in the penalty box and Ireland capitalised to reduce the lead to one but the Finns managed to score at the death and end the quarter leading by just two points.
Ireland found themselves under increased pressure from the Finnish press for the duration of the second quarter. The Finns stretched their lead to seven points by the midpoint of the quarter, forcing four turnovers in the process. Ireland held the deficit to seven for the next two minutes but the Finns intensity seen them gradually extend the lead as the quarter drew to a close, ending it with a nine-point advantage.
Ireland retaliated in the third quarter and despite dropping another point to fall ten behind, rallied for the remainder of the quarter, putting huge pressure on the Finnish inbound. The Finns used two player timeouts in very quick succession, used up their allocation soon thereafter, then confusion reigned as they called for another player timeout. With no alternative other than to use a coach’s timeout, Ireland capitalised and scored from a turnover from the resulting Finnish inbound. Finland tried to use the clock on their possessions to slow the Irish charge, which worked to an extent, but Ireland kept up the pressure and finished the quarter down by eight points, winning the quarter 11-10.
It wasn’t to be for Ireland, however, as the Finns composed themselves during the break. They increased the pressure on the Irish inbound and used the clock wisely throughout the fourth, never allowing Ireland to build up a head of steam. With 4:40 remaining in the game, Finland had extended their lead to 14 points. Their clock management took the sting out of the game and Ireland were left with too much work to do in closing minutes. The game eventually finished 48-36 to Finland but Ireland will have learned a massive amount from the game. The Finns didn’t dominate in the way the score line suggests with plenty of positives for Ireland to take from the display