Sweden withstands Malta’s initial pressure, to run out the winners

Malta vs Sweden Friendly

Sweden had to work hard for victory. Photo by Ian Aquilina
Sweden had to work hard for victory. Photo by Ian Aquilina

By Bryan Corlett

Sweden, a team that is playing two divisions above Malta, faced a lot of pressure from a young Malta Barbarians team that showed a lot of promise last weekend.

They came out of the blocks all pumped up and threw everything into the battle with their big forwards using crash ball and then going wide to their tall lean backs. But Malta stood their ground, put in some big tackles and forced the Swedes into mistakes.

The Malta scrum heavily outweighed, put in some monster shoves, won penalties and three of the Swede put ins into the scrum.

Playing with the wind at their backs, Malta spent the first quarter of the game without much of the ball, the Swedish scrumhalf Mitchell (9) ran the blind from a ruck and scored 10 metres from the corner flag, the conversion twisted away in the wind, but it was Sweden 5 Malta Barbarians 0.

A mix up in the Malta defence at the back gifted a try when Rissanen (12) swooped on a mistake to score. Sweden 10 Malta 0.

Around the 15 minute mark Malta put a lot of pressure on the Swedes and finally put some phases together and worked their way up field, winning a penalty. Collins (2) tapped and ran, passed to Morris (10) who broke the defence and threw a long pass to Stivala (14) who scored out wide.

Sweden 10 Malta 5.

Malta kicked long and from a lineout drove the ball forward and won a penalty which Morris duly kicked from 45 metres out, to bring the score closer. Sweden 10 Malta 8.

Cassar (4) put in a big tackle on Rissanen (12) which forced a knock on and a Malta attacking scrum. Malta won another penalty with Sweden not releasing the tackled player and from 40 metres Morris (10) put it down the middle to put Malta in front.

Malta 11 Sweden 10, a good period of play for Malta.

The Swedes are trying to play an expansive game, but dropped passes and knockons are slowing their momentum. John Ellul (18) comes on for Basher (8) and carries hard into the Swedish defence, finally giving Malta some go forward.

Both teams were bringing on substitutes, giving experience to some new players for the Internationals ahead. Malta will play Switzerland away next week and then Israel at home the week after. Sweden will play the Ukraine away in Kiev and then Holland at home, so this game is a development game for both teams to test combinations, so at times the game does ebb and flow.

Just before halftime a drop ball in the tackle was picked up by Burke (8) and he ran straight in under the posts to make the score with the conversion by Gowland (15) Sweden 17 Malta 11.

In the second half Sweden used the wind to kick long for territory whenever they won a penalty, an attacking lineout was stolen by Andrew Vella (20) who got up in front of their jumper to relieve pressure.

Malta are struggling to get out of their half, as the Swedes keep the pressure on with long kicks and big forwards crashing the ball up and then spinning the ball wide to their backs. From a ruck near the Malta tryline Mitchell (9) dives over to score to stretch their lead to Sweden 24 Malta 11 with a great conversion from the sideline by Gowland (15)

Richard Gum (15) put in a try saving tackle, knocking Nordgren (13) into touch by the corner flag when he had broken the defence.

The big number 8 Burke scores again after a period of pressure, and with the conversion it is now Sweden 31 Malta 11.

Finally Malta got into the Swedish 22, after going through a period of phases with ball in hand building pressure Julian Galea (9) put in a grubber kick behind the defence and as the winger waited for the ball to roll over the line so he can touch it down for a 22 drop out, Stivala chasing hard (14) dived and touched down for the try. Sweden 31 Malta 16.

In the last few minutes the superior fitness of the Swedes had them score two more tries, to Darbyshire (2) and Claren (14) with Gowland (15) kicking one conversion to make the final score Sweden 43 Malta 16.

Man of the match Gowland (15) for Sweden, Busittil (12) for Malta, for his leadership and defensive work.

A lot of positives for Malta bringing in young players to test their mettle, in the fire of International Rugby.

Malta: Anthony Harvey (1) Harry Collins (2) Terrence Galdes (3) Clayton Cassar (4) Isaac Bezzina (5) Ben Borg (6) Calvin Briffa (7) Jack Basher (8) Julian Galea (9) James Morris (10) Matt Camilleri (11) Dominic  Busuttil (12) Rory O’Brien (13) Vince Stivala (14) Richard Gum (15) Nathan Gatt (17) John Ellul (18) Tyson Freeman (19) Andrew Vella (20) Ryan Mclister (21) Jeremy Debattista (22) George Hepburn (23) Roderick Borg (24) Luke Mathews (25)

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