SLOVENIA        14

MALTA              42

The Malta rugby national team enjoyed an impressive start to their FIRA-AER Conference South One commitments when they thrashed Slovenia in Ljubljana.

Damien Neill’s men were a cut above their opponents who were making their first appearance in this division after winning promotion last season.

The Malta coach named four new players in his travelling squad, who all ply their trade in the Maltese league. These were Falcons RFC duo Martin Barbara and Liam Scicluna, Matt Stoker, of Overseas and Stompers’ Jon Micallef.

The Maltese players took the game by the scruff off their neck right from their outset as their superior power in the pack and the pace on the flanks made life difficult for the Slovenians.

In fact, Neill’s men took only three minutes to take the lead when Harry Collins concluded a fine move to score the first try of the match. James O’Brien made no mistake from the conversion to put his team 7-0 ahead.

The Slovenians were struggling to contain Malta’s power in the scrum and it was no surprise that  in the tenth minute, the visitors made the most of this weapon to score their second try of the match.

Darren Deguara held the ball tightly and was carried by the team’s pack over the tryline to touch the ball home. O’Brien was again immaculate to hand Malta a 14-0 lead.

Slovenia, started to get out of their half but were still finding it tough to breach Malta’s backline.

Malta further rubber stamped their authority with a third try midway through the half when Rob Holloway stormed through to touch home with O’Brien maintaining his 100 per cent record from the conversion line – 21-0.

Malta continued to play with freedom and they showed their attacking prowess in the final stages of the first half when after swift passing move Luke Matthews scored in the corner with O’Brien making the conversion for a 28-0 lead.

The Slovenians finally got on the scoresheet just before the half-time whistle when they scored through a penalty try to head in the changing rooms trailing 28-7.

In the second half, the Maltese started brightly and but despite pegging their opponents in their own half they failed to score. Instead, it was the Slovenians who broke through with a quick counter attack to score their second try and bridge the gap to 28-14.

However, Malta’s response was immaculate as straight from kick off they managed to recover possession and George Hepburn powered his way through to score the team’s fifth try and the bonus point. O’Brien scored the conversion to hand Malta a commanding 35-14 lead.

There was still time for one last try for Malta when Collins grabbed his second of the match with O’Brien maintaining his 100 per cent record from the conversion line to seal a resounding win for the national team.

MALTA: R. Apsee, D. Holliday, T. Galdes, B. Borg, M. Barbara, D. Deguara 5, H. Collins 10, M. Davey, T. Holloway, R. Holloway 5, L. Matthews 5, D. Busuttil, M. Attard, G. Hepburn 5, J. O’Brien 12.

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