Switzerland took the opening game of the Rugby Europe Women’s Trophy 2018-19 with a hard-fought 20-5 win over Finland on an overcast day in Helsinki.
Both teams had faced each other twice before in the last six years, but with a brand-new European Trophy on the line as well as rating points, this was to be a much more intense encounter than the last two, which were won by Switzerland.
Switzerland kicked off the game and were first to get on the scoreboard thanks to an early penalty from the boot of winger Selina Fux.
The rest of the first quarter was played mostly in Switzerland’s half as the visitors, though solid in the set piece, didn’t help themselves in fending off the mounting Finnish pressure with a high number of missed tackles.
A 26th-minute yellow card to Carole Gachet reduced Switzerland to 14 players for 10 minutes and Finland capitalised on their numerical advantage to score what turned out to be their only points through Anna Soiluva, just before the Swiss flanker returned to the fray.
Back to 15 players, Switzerland put the home side under a lot of pressure with a series of multi-phase moves, one of which almost resulted in winger Nicole Gerber-Imsand crossing in the corner.
Eeva Pohjanheimo's try-saving tackle was deemed to be high and, from the resulting tapped penalty, Switzerland scored their first try close to the posts through test debutant Juliette Pera, allowing a simple conversion for Fux to slot over.
Leading 10-5 at half-time, Switzerland controlled most of the play in the second half but they had to wait until the 65th minute before adding to their score. It was worth the wait, though, Lala da Silva weaving her way through the Finnish midfield for a fine solo effort.
Another try on debut, from Anne Thiebaud, rounded off a very satisfactory afternoon for the Swiss who play Czechia in the next game of the three-team tournament in Yverdon-Les-Bains on 17 November.
Switzerland will go into that match ranked two places higher, in 35th, thanks to a gain of 1.09 points from the win over Finland. They move above Uzbekistan and the Cayman Islands.
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