The Malta rugby national team opened their Conference South 1 campaign on the right footing when they battled past Israel 21-14 in Netanya on Saturday.
It was a hard-fought victory for Damian Neill’s team who after a shaky start they managed to score two tries to control of the match.
But typically, the Israelis kept fighting and pushed themselves within one try with only 15 minutes to go.
But the Maltese kept their composure to preserve their advantage till the end.
Malta will now look to make it two wins out of two when they face Bosnia at the Hibs Stadium next Saturday.
The Maltese were forced to contain Israel’s pressure in the opening stages as the hosts were looking to make the most of their big and powerful pack when pushing forward.
In fact it was the Israelis who drew first blood inside the first 20 minutes when they embarked on a surging driving maul that put the visitors’ defence under severe pressure before touching the ball over the goal-line for the first try.
The home side kicked in the conversion to take a 7-0 lead.
But Malta’s response soon arrived as they managed to first pull three points back through a penalty conversion from James Kirk, yesterday taking charge of the team’s kicking duties.
Then Chris Dudman showed great reflexes to pounce on a misunderstanding between the Israel’s backs to charge clear before laying the ball to Rory O’Brien who completed the formalites to hand his team the first try.
Kirk made no mistake from the converstion to to put Malta 10-7 ahead.
From then on, the Maltese started to take control of proceedings and they managed to further increased the gap with successive penalty conversions from Kirk to go at the interval nine points ahead – 16-7.
On the restart, Malta are soon on their game and they strike again inside the first six minutes when after a protracted move Tom Holloway sets up Dudman who bursts through for the second try of the match 21-7.
Midway through the second half, the Maltese lost Vince Farrugia for a yellow card offence, handing temporary numerical advantage to the hosts.
And Israel soon profited from this advantage when they touched the ball in the corner and converted the try to move within seven points – 21-14.
Buoyed by this try the Israelis stepped up the pressure as they look to salvage the match.
They launch wave after wave of attacks but the Maltese defence banked on their experience to weather the storm and hold on to the win.
Malta: M. Spiteri, H. Collins, D. Cerketa, D. Deguara, C. Cassar, D. Apsee, L. Watts, M. Davey, T. Holloway, R. Holloway, R. Holloway, R. Gum, D. Busuttil, R. O’Brien 5, J. Kirk 11. C. Dudman 5.
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