Malta outclass league leaders

Despite playing with only 14 men for over half the match, Malta scored a deserved 22-14 win over Pool Leaders Sweden. Both sides scored two tries but actually Malta could have scored more if they had not wasted several overlaps through selfish running or poor final passes.

22 April 2012, 12:00am
Malta left no chance for Sweden to get banck into the match. Photo Ray Attard
Malta left no chance for Sweden to get banck into the match. Photo Ray Attard
Mike Turner

Both sides tended to give away possession with inaccurate kicking but nevertheless it was an exciting match. On this form it should have been Malta gaining promotion.

Malta gave away a penalty from the kick off but Fransson missed the opportunity to take an immediate lead. Two or three minutes later Malta took the lead with an O'Brien penalty after Sweden were offside.

Sweden looked very dangerous as they launched a huge driving maul from a lineout and a poor clearance by Holloway exaggerated the problem. However, the Maltese backs, marshalled by Holloway and captain Busuttil looked the more penetrative. Referee Murinella was exerting a strict presence with successive penalties.

A superb weaving break by Quarandon created an overlap but poor passing spoiled the chance, despite Masons rescue of a poor ball, More sidesteps then created an overlap for recycled ball for Sacco to score in the corner. O'Brien missed the conversion.

Then the first major problem for Malta as Mason was yellow carded for a ten minute visit to the sin bin.

Soon after, despite a spirited session by Malta Sweden "stole" a try by taking a quick throw in with a different ball, which is illegal. However the Maltese team just stopped playing and Murphy ran in for an easy try converted by Fransson. Malta kicked away possession too often which allowed the Swedes to mount counter attacks.

Mason returned and Malta cooked up a series of exciting inter passing and offloading attacks from side to side, against which the Swedes could only defend illegally. The inevitable penalty was converted by O'Brien so Malta went into half time with a 11 - 7 lead.

The second half started with Sweden missing a penalty after an inaccurate Malta clearance, but they pressed to the line. Malta defence held out and cleared with a huge kick to touch from O'Brien.

Then came an incident which questions sportsmanship in rugby as Petterson rolled about in agony after a tackle by Howland. The referee awarded an instant red card so Howland was off for the rest of the match, but miraculously Petterson leaped to his feet as fit as a fiddle. It is hoped that rugby is not to be the victim of the diving epidemic which so ruins soccer.

Despite being a man down, the gallant Maltese tore into the Swedes and Davey and Holloway mounted a determined interpassing attack which failed when Watts gave a poor pass to Sacco.

The Swedes did their best to to cut open the Malta defence but the Maltese terrier tackling defence stopped them dead. Malta counterattacked and O'Brien landed two more penalties to  extend the lead. Even when Sweden drove at the line they could not score, until the Malta defence was spilt wide open for Frannsson toscore under the posts and convert, bringing the score to 17-14 and putting Malta in real danger. With subs Apsee, Cassar on the field, Malta drewon the depth of their courage and strength to drive the Swedes back, spin the ball left and right, and finally create an overlap on the left, and O'Brien dummied to pass to the wing, but swerved and shimmied througha tackle to score the winning try with a swallow dive. He missed the conversion, but Malta were 8 points, two scores ahead and the Swedish heads went down - match over.

The seven man Maltese pack were heroes as they outplayed the Swedish eight.

The Malta backs are a fine outfit if they can take advantage of the many opportunities they create.

Busuttil is a good leader by example, and this team is capable of playing at a higher level.