Malta outclass Lithuania 34-17
Malta put their campaign back on track with a crushing victory over Lithuania at a packed Hibs Stadium yesterday.
Damien Neill’s men produced the perfect response to last week’s 20-19 defeat in Croatia as they outclassed the more-quoted Lithuania.
James O’Brien again playing a key role when scoring an impressive 19 points to propel the team to a commanding victory.
Vince Stivala, Mark Davey and Rob Holloway added valuable tries for Malta to chalk up their first win in the group.
Neill was boosted with the news that O’Brien was given the go-ahead to play as Daniel Holliday also declared himself fit following injuries sustained in Croatia.
The coach still effected three changes from the team that lost in Makarska however as Adam Kennedy was handed his full debut as hooker in place of Harry Collins.
Clayton Cassar failed to recover from back trouble and he was replaced by Michael Bonavia with Luke Watts switched to lock. Malcolm Attard was preferred to Matthew Camilleri who started on the bench.
The match started with the hosts being awarded a penalty inside the first minute and the ever-reliable O’Brien made no mistake. Soon after an infringement by Luke Watts gifted Lithuania a penalty but Donatas Vilimavicius missed.
O’Brien’s perfect kicking was a great boost for the Maltese in those early stages of the match and the Waterloo man struck again on 10 minutes when he directed another penalty from mid-pitch between the Lithuanian posts.
Lithuanian got off the mark on 18 minutes when they were awarded a central penalty and this time Vilimavicius bridged the gap to 6-3.
The catalogue of penalties continued as O’Brien had another chance from an acute angle but his time he miscued his shot. However, O’Brien was on the mark from the next penalty situation – 9-3.
Things got even better for Malta on 25 minutes when Rob Holloway stole possession 10 metres out and sped through for the first try of the match. O’Brien duly scored the conversion.
The Lithuanians’ defensive lines were leaking water from everywhere. They simply could not contain Malta’s quick passing.
On the half hour, Holloway again wriggled his way through before releasing Mark Davey who easily sped beyond the line for another try.
O’Brien was successful from the conversion.
Lithuania lost their plot and conceded yet another penalty. O’Brien was on hand to convert and push his personally tally to 16 points and stretch Malta’s lead to 26-6.
On 38 minutes, the visitors were dropped a lifeline when Dan Apsee was yellow-carded.
Lithuania quickly profited from their numerical advantage. They found space in the Malta defence and Mindaugas Misevicius scored his team’s first try which was converted by Vilimavicius.
At the interval Malta led 26-10.
Lithuania, still with a man more on the pitch, dominated proceedings as the second half got underway but for all their pressure they were unable to find another way through.
Neill’s men did well to preserve their advantage and when Apsee was back in O’Brien added three more points from another penalty.
Then, from another sweeping move in attack, winger Stivala sidestepped his marker before running through for a try. O’Brien missed the conversion this time to leave Malta 34-10 ahead.
Things got worse for Lithuania when Richardas Stankus was yellow-carded in the closing stages but they did manage to bridge the gap with a Tomas Zibolis try (converted by Vilimavicius).
However, that came too late as victory had long been secured by the rampant Maltese.
Malta: K. Mason, A. Kennedy, D. Holliday, L. Watts, D. Deguara, M. Bonavia, D. Apsee, M. Davey 5, T. Holloway, R. Holloway 5, V. Stivala 5, D. Busuttil, T. Quarendon, M. Attard, J. O’Brien 19.
Subs used: M. Camilleri, J. Howland.
Lithuania: L. Tipelis, R. Stankus, D. Jonaitis, K. Navickas, E. Gaubys, J. Urbonas, G. Svoba, M. Grigas, M. Misevicius 5, M. Marsantas, T. Zibolis 5, K. Marcisauskas, E. Sciavinskas, D. Vilimavicius 7, J. Vasilauskas.
Subs used: A. Sutkus, T. Astrau-skas, D. Taujanskas.
Referee: L. Janssens (Belgium).