Rampant Malta destroy Croatia

Magnificent Malta rugby men dazzled a physically strong Croatia, who have so often been a bogey team who stole results 7 times out of 9 fixtures in the past. Malta went on to win 37-18

Malta put in a great performance to defeat Croatia. Photo Ray Attard
Malta put in a great performance to defeat Croatia. Photo Ray Attard

By Mike Turner

There was a time, just after half time that the match was on the verge of swinging back towards Croatia, but Damien Neills men pulled themselves together and surged well ahead of the hard, fast but predictable Croats.

At the start Malta posted notice that their style would be fast and varied and were soon attacking to gain a penalty which O’Brien missed. Then swift and accurate passing released Kirk from fullback to score, O’Brien converting – 7-0 to Malta.  Morris was kicking with great accuracy to gain territory and the excellent Malta line out robbed possession, from the possession Sacco chipped into the corner and Captain Busuttil burrowed over for try, again converted by O’Brien. The swift running andhandling of Malta was confusing the opposition/ Croatia concentrated on slowing the game down and using superior weight and strength to grind out a win and for a while this began to take effect. An unusual poor kick by Motrris  gave away possession and finally they showed threat with a well thought back move, worked down into the corner and with a series of scissor moves created an overlap to score wide. Shortly afterwards they pressed territorially and converted a penalty to bring the score back to 14-8.

The Croats concentrated on a hard hitting charging game , obviously hoping to wear down the lighter Maltese, and the first half ended at 14-8 to Malta, only a slender lead.

The start of the second half saw a nice try by Apsee for Malta as they dragged in the defence to create an overlap, but for a period the strong arm tactics of the visitors looked to be having an effect. To worsen matters O’Brien missed two comparatively easy penalties and Malta began to look a little jittery, s they continued to kick away possession. Croatia had no specialist place kicker and always kicked to touch to go for tries. The physical threat of Croatia might have worn Malta down but the  team tackled like tigers and when Croatia pressed   the try line the defence was stalwart. Finally a superb tactical kick put Malta back on the defensive and quickly won ball allowed Stivala to swerve and force his way over for try, converted from the corner by O’Brien.  26 – 8 and Malta looked more comfortable and in control. Throughout Degurar and Schranz at lock were magnificent in out thinking and out running their bigger opponents.

Croatia continued to gtind for points and Malta captain Dom Busuttil was yellow caede for a professional foul to prevent a try. Suddenly despite their good lead Malta looked potentially viulnerable. Croatia almost immediately scored a try. The magnificent Maltese  team rose to the challenge , charged upfield and O’Brien notched a penalty. Straight from the kick off Kirk was fed the ball, chipped into space and scored a wonderful try in the corner.. Croatia hit back with another drive over try,  but the match was finished by another O’Brien penalty.

Malta has safeguarded their position in the division and could still even challenge for promotion, having scored five tries to win a bonus point. Altogether a magnificent display by Damien Neills men. A moment to be proud to be Maltese.

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