World Cup: (10) Finland Upends (7) Ireland, 148-134

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TORONTO, ON — In the closest seeding matchup of Friday’s elimination-bout action, 7 seed Ireland (1-1 in round robin action with a win over Argentina and a loss to England) went up against 10 seed Finland (0-2 with a big loss to Australia and a close one to Germany). The matchup lived up to the seeding, as it was one of the only tournament games that was close from start to finish, and in the end Ireland ran out of time, losing 148-134 to the upstart Finns.

Underdog Finland got on the board first with 3-0 and 5-0 opening frames that got the fans riled up, though KataStrofi didn’t realize that the opposing jammer had been boxed on jam 2 and called early while on a power jam. They’d get 4 more on the other side of the power jam, but Ireland’s Zola Blood erupted out of the box and ran up the inside line on the 4th jam to get lead and her team on the board with a 5-0, and another Ireland 5-0 made it 12-10 Finland.

Zola Blood ended up going back to the box and once again having a Finland jammer apparently call the jam too early after just one scoring pass, leaving Finland narrowly up 17-10 but looking at about 25 seconds still left in the power jam. Finland’s Udre made the best of it, though, landing a nice apex jump to finish off a 9-0 and keep the underdog Finns up 26-10 with about 19 minutes left in the first half.

After a scoreless jam, though, Ireland’s Phantom Jemerald had a huge powerjam against a thinned-out Finland pack, running up 24-0, and suddenly the lead Finland had been slowly working on had been replaced by a 34-26 Ireland lead. Finland called their first timeout there with 16 to go in the first.

Ireland consistently started pulling lead jammer calls after that lead change, but Finland jammers were always out five to ten seconds behind — however, that was enough time for Ireland to post a series of small-ball jams that extended their lead to 45-30 with 11:30 in the half.

Finland got another powerjam opportunity there but yet again called it early, failing to realize that the other jammer was boxed. This time, though, Juicy Butther successfully added to the previous 4-0 on the other side of the power jam, adding 10-0 to make it a 1 point game at 45-44 Ireland with 9:47. Ireland called their first timeout here.

Ireland jammer Jessica Rammit tried to go after Finland’s Katastrofi right off the line in the next frame, but only succeeded in knocking her right into position to take lead; Katastrofi took 3-0 to put Finland ahead again 47-45. But that was a very short-lived lead, as Ireland had a power jam on the next frame and turned it into a 10-4 run for Zola Blood, putting Ireland up 57-51 with about 6 minutes in the half.

Finland nicked away, sticking right with Ireland and putting themselves in position to take the lead with the score 67-60 going into a powerjam with about 30 seconds on the clock — they capitalized there, going back in front with a 10-0 that made it Finland 70, Ireland 67 at halftime.

Things stayed very closely matched over the first minutes of the second half to a new score of 89-81 Finland with 23:00 in the game. Ireland’s Phantom Jemerald exploited a power jam there to give the apparently pro-Irish crowd something to cheer about with a 15-0 that put the girls in green back ahead 96-89.

But the tables turned in a big way next as it was Udre getting some time unopposed for Finland as jammer and her 10-0 once again switched the lead, this time to 99-96 Finland with 19:33 to go. Next up, Katastrofi toed the line for Finland, still working unopposed with Roisin Roulette in the box for Ireland; Katastrofi blew through a nearly stopped pack four times for a 114-96 Finland lead with 18 to play.

Finland was able to maintain their lead through the middle stretch of the half, but not without strong challenges from Ireland. As the clock reached 10 minutes left in the game, Finland still held a 13 point lead at 121-108.

And at that point … absolutely nothing happened, as Finland and Ireland killed a full two minutes of clock time with neither team willing to cross the pivot line or take a knee to release the jammers. The crowd did not care too much for that no-action 0-0, but it did get time off the clock for Finland, and they continued increasing their lead to 139-112 with about 3 minutes to play.

There was a key jammer penalty to Ireland’s Zola Blood there, although Finland’s jammer once again apparently failed to notice that Ireland had gone jammerless and called it off at 0-0 with 2:39 left to play. On the next jam, though, Finland played very smart by calling after picking up 5-0, keeping Zola Blood iced in the box with only 1:03 left on the game clock and Finland with a solid lead, 144-112.

Finland put up Trixie Grandbang to go out with a short powerjam, and when she got lead quickly it looked certain to be a game winner for Finland, but she inexplicably called off the jam at 4-4 with 11 seconds still on the clock — Ireland eagerly called their last timeout to force one more jam at 148-116.

Still, though, even though Phantom Jemerald pleased the pro-Irish crowd by picking up lead and digging deep to put up a huge 18-0 last jam over a defense-minded Udre there just wasn’t enough time left on the clock to close that gap. The game closed at 148-134 for the only seeding upset in Friday’s elimination action.

Finland advances to play to 2 seed Canada at 3:30pm; Ireland’s next game has not yet been announced.

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