The Estonian national rugby team managed to win a place in Division 3 of the European Nations Cup on Saturday, beating Belarus in the play-off in Tallinn.
The match was the first attempt for Estonia to break into the Nations Cup, and the nation will start in the lowest of the seven leagues in the spring of 2015, facing Montenegro, Greece and Slovakia. It was also the first attempt for Belarus.
Estonia began well in the game, watched by one of the largest crowds ever at a rugby game in Estonia with around 200 showing up, twice as many who regularly play rugby every week in the nation. Estonia scored the first three tries, and finished the half in a commanding 31-5 lead.
Showing great passing ability and a build-up game, the team did not allow Belarus to gain a foothold, scoring four more tries in the second half, and converting all kicks, to finish the score at 59-12.
Head coach Tim Shepherd told ERR News after the game he is only slightly less happy than when his son was born. He said the team has been training hard and gave everything in the game.
Luke Veebel, who grew up in England playing the game, said he felt ecstatic, adding that the progress made by the team recently has been tremendous. "The team really listens well and defends well,“ he said. Pallas said he will help out the team again come the Division 3 games.
For photos of the match, click here.
Estonian foreign legion
The roster of the national team reads like a who's who of Estonian rugby, not least because few people play the game. But Saturday's game featured a few unusual names.
Veebel and Karl Pallas both were born and raised in England, both have at least one Estonian parent and both played in the youth ranks of Leicester Tigers. For those unfamiliar with rugby clubs, the Leicester Tigers are the Manchester United of rugby, winning the English Premiership four times in the past eight tries.
Although neither plays for the Tigers any longer, both men are active in the sport and added much needed talent and experience to the current group of Sunday rugby enthusiasts, who include prison wardens and IT consultants.
Maati Pallas, brother of Karl, is also on the team, as is Jaan Lorens, who received his rugby schooling in Australia.
The next chance to see the national team in action in Estonia is at the beginning of November in Pärnu.