Brave Malta lose against Switzerland

Malta suffered their second defeat in Division 2A when they lost to Switzerland 23-20 at the Hibs Stadium.

There was a hive of activity down at Hibernians ground in Paola for this ANZAC Day Test Match between Malta and Switzerland, a tense atmosphere for the players, but a joyful reunion for the Rugby community as a swathe of ex-Malta International players travelled from the UK to Malta for the game. The weather was overcast with a breeze blowing down the ground from the harbour end.

These two teams had met three before and the results were:

2007: Malta 17, Switzerland 8.

2013: Switzerland 19, Malta 10.

2014 Malta 29, Switzerland 14.

Switzerland kicked off with the wind at their backs, playing towards the Paola end and immediately won a penalty, which they duly kicked.

One minute on the clock and the Swiss are up by 3 points to nil. The Swiss are playing in Red and are fired up and charging into the Maltese forwards and playing front foot rugby and not letting the Maltese players settle into their stride.

On 4 minutes the Swiss worked their way into the Malta 22 and the fly half Sebastian Dimitri(10) stood deep, took a pass from the scrumhalf and drop kicked a goal.

It is now Switzerland 6 Malta 0 and Malta are getting bossed by the Swiss and can't get their hands on the ball.

The Swiss are using their big forwards to get go forward ball and opening up the space for their backs to run.

On 6 minutes the Swiss full back(15) Gery came into the line and received the ball from a forward's offload and scores to the right of the posts.

Dimitri (10) converted and the Swiss are 13 and Malta zip and were still trying to get into the game.

The Maltese are trying to put some phases together, running their forwards down the 10/12 channel, but don't seem to be going anywhere and against the wind, it was difficult to kick for territory.

O'Brien (15) for Malta got a chance to put some points on the board, after a Swiss player didn't release in the tackle, but his kick drifted with the wind.

The Swiss lay siege to the Malta tryline with first their number 8 Monzeglio and then Alber(4) the big boys in their pack, crashing it up, but they are penalised for not releasing the ball after the tackle and Morris(10) relieves the pressure with a good kick down to the 10 metre mark.

The Swiss again worked their way up field and from a driving maul from a lineout Monzeglio(8) with his forward pack in support powers his way over.

On 12 minutes the Swiss are up 18 to nil.

Kyle Mason(1) is lucky to be still on the field as he is penalised for a shoulder tackle, the fact that it is a low tackle around the legs, probably his saving grace from being sent to the sin bin.

From that penalty Dimitri(10) kicked into the corner on the grandstand side. From the lineout the Swiss work the rolling maul and head toward the Malta try line, but the Touch judge, Killian O'Brien (no relation to James) spotted a knock-on and informed the Referee Serge Guidez from Holland.

From a 22 James Morris(10) kicked long, the Swiss fullback launched an attack from deep and just when the move looked promising, the pass to the wing went into touch.

The crowd  raised the noise level getting behind the Maltese with drums beating and bugles playing urging their team on and finally on the 18 minute mark, they had something to really cheer about when Rhodri Apsee(3) from a ruck near the line picked the ball up and charged forward, scoring about 10 metres in from the scoreboard touchline. James O'Brien(15) converted the try and finally we are in the game.

Switzerland 18, Malta 7. But Malta are having to play catch up Rugby.

With a bit more ball the Maltese boys  started to settle into a rhythm attacking the Swiss through the forwards and then out wide, but it was a resolute Swiss defence who stood up to make the tackles.

Kyle Mason (1) was having trouble with the engagement of the scrum with the Swiss Prop pulling back and he tried to get some clarity from the Referee on the issue, engaging him in a moment of dialogue.

A few minutes before half time an incident that would have a bearing on the game happened. Luke Watts charged for the line from a ruck on the 5 metre mark, he stretched out to score, but as he grounded it the Referee got caught in a tackle between a defender and the attacker and was flattened, so he didn't see the grounding and so could not make the call. With no Video Refs at this level, there was no action replay. A scrum was called, Malta are awarded a penalty and O'Brien made no mistake now taking the score to:

Switzerland 18, Malta 10.

At halftime that was where the score remained.

With now the wind at their backs we thought that Malta would find their game and surge forward. The Swiss had substituted a couple of their players at half time, who looked like they were starting to fade, off went Coulot(6) and on came Serex(19) then Bartschi(3) was subbed by Schaerer(16).

Just 6 minutes into the second half the Swiss score another try Montiel(13) goes over near the corner after a cross field kick, the conversion missed and now the score is:

Switzerland 23, Malta 10.

From a scrum Malta's Davey(8) went blind down the line and when he is tackled a ruck was formed and a Swiss player is penalised for hands in the ruck. From 45 metres O'Brien didn't allow for the wind to drift the ball in and it drifted to the right. A chance to keep the pressure on the Swiss is lost.

But back went Malta on the  attack going through a few phases with the forwards crashing the ball up over the gain line and then Captain Dominic Busutil(12) taking it the final 5 metres to score under the posts. O'Brien kicked the conversion and the Malta team had their tails up and were looking to ruck and roll! We were 10 minutes into the second half and the score was now.

Switzerland 23, Malta 17.

The Swiss started to look tired and I think at that point we needed to speed the game up and spread the ball wide with tap penalties, instead of kicking for touch, which gave the Swiss time to catch their breath. They substituted more players who were feeling the heat Guyou(5) was subbed by Pommies(20) and Guyou(12) by Escoffier(22).

The Swiss were getting their kicking game going launching some high balls which swirled in the wind, O'Brien not calling for one of them as the going forward player and instead left for it for Holloway(9) running back and the ball bounced and rolled awkwardly.

Another sweet chip kick by Dimitri(10) when he spotted no one was sweeping at the back and the Malta backline was rushing up, had us in a quandary, but a Swiss player knocked on.

On 63 minutes Mark Davey(8) went for a Blood bin substitution getting a crack on the head opening up a wound over his eye, but five minutes later he was back into the fray, replacing Joseph Cutajar(19) who had come on as a Blood substitute.

The big Maltese/Australian boy Marvin Cordle(11) had a few bashing runs but they came to no avail. At training I had seen him run a line close to the ruck, getting a pass from the scrumhalf, but today it didn't happen so often.

Another moment in the game we had the ball on our own line and there was great opportunity to spin the ball wide, as there was no Swiss backline in position, with a few skip passes to the winger, he could have set sail and run the length of the field. Opportunity lost, as instead they went for safety and kicked for touch.

On 65 minutes Kyle Mason(1) was substituted by Daniel Holliday(17).

Malta needed a try to win the game, they worked their way up field and in front of the posts Morris(10) dropped into the pocket received the ball and drop kicked a goal, probably if had been aware of the time left on the clock, he probably would not have gone for that option, as time was running out.

But Malta were inching closer, the score now being Switzerland 23, Malta 20.

A couple of Malta line outs were lost when the thrower made a double action and from a free kick from one of them the Swiss booted the ball into touch to end the game.

The slow start had the Maltese trying to catch up all game, in the second half they couldn't get any territory by kicking for the corners as they couldn't get enough ball. their expansive game going wide was thwarted by a rushing Swiss defence and wherever possible the Swiss tried to slow down the game. But they played the game the way that they had to, playing smart and getting the win.

A slow start gave the Maltese a hill to climb as they were down 18-0 by the twelfth minute, it was too much of a climb, they got close, but at times poor options let them down.

The Swiss players selected Mark Davey(8) as the Malta "Man of the Match and the Maltese players picked Dimitri(10) as their best player.


Malta: Mason, Collins, Apsee, Deguara, Cassar, Watts, Apsee, Davey, Holloway, Morris, Cordle, Busutil, Quarendon, Kirk, O'Brien.

Reserves: Cerketta, Holliday, Spiteri, Cutajar, Sammut, Camilleri, Stivala, Edmunds.

Coaches: Damian Neill, Len Ethel. Manager: Joss Howland.

Switzerland: Lafuye, Paul, Bartschi, Alber, Guyou, Coulet, Lin, Monzeglio, Doy, Dimitri, Heinrich, Guyou, Montiel, Hirsch, Gery.

Reserves: Schaerer, Moritz, Coullon, Serex, Pommies, Kraljevic, Escoffier, Gombass.

Coaches: Gil Coquard, Jerome Mallinjoud. Manager: Marcel Vernhes.

Match Commisioner:

Points Table: Czech Republic 16, Switzerland 14, Malta 9, Croatia 8, Israel 3.


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