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Malta end campaign with a win

Thomas Holloway barges his way through against Israel. Photo: Paul Zammit Cutajar

Thomas Holloway barges his way through against Israel. Photo: Paul Zammit Cutajar

Malta 30
Israel 9

Malta completed their commitments in the FIRA-AER Division 2A on a positive note after brushing aside bottom-placed Israel yesterday.

Damien Neill’s men struggled to produce their trademark quick-passing game but still carried too much ammunition for an Israeli side that lacked the punch in the final third to hurt the Malta defence.

In the end, the Maltese team were able to celebrate a comfortable victory but, of more importance for coach Neill, was the performance of new players Rory O’Brien, Julian Galea, Benjamin Borg and George Hepburn, who all enjoyed a positive home debut.

Neill was forced to make a late change in his starting formation as winger James Kirk pulled his hamstring in the warm-up. He was replaced by Hepburn.

Malta were off to a flier as James Morris kicked in a penalty after two minutes. Then, O’Brien pounced on an error by Israel’s Nathan Amos to run clear and score the opening try of the match.

Morris was successful with the conversion – 10-0.

Israel’s response came from an Ori Abutbul penalty but the hosts hit back immediately courtesy of another Morris penalty.

The match then entered a scrappy patch with both teams guilty of several passing errors.

Abutbul added another penalty five minutes from the break but again Malta regained the initiative and Morris sped past two markers before setting up Luke Watts who touched the ball over the line.

Morris was again reliable from the conversion and, just before the half-time break, Abutbul converted a penalty to reduce the deficit to 11 points – 20-9.

Neill’s men maintained their dominance and Anthony Harvey was at the heart of a driving maul to touch home for the team’s third try.

Morris saw his conversion smack against the upright. But more woes followed for the visitors as Ushangi Manjavidze was then yellow-carded for a high tackle.

Despite being a man down Israel still managed to hold their own and attacked the Malta defence but with scant award.

Their hopes were dashed when Matan Brosh became Israel’s second player to be yellow-carded.

Late on, Mark Davey scored another try to round up the victory for Malta, their third in the competition.

Malta: D. Holliday, H. Collins, A. Harvey 5, D. Deguara, C. Cassar, L. Watts 5, D. Apsee, M. Davey 5, T. Holloway, J. Morris 10, L. Matthews, D. Busuttil, R. O’Brien 5, G. Hepburn.

Subs used: B. Borg, M. Camilleri, J. Galea, R. McLister.

Israel: N. Amos, O. Lotan, M. Brosh, U. Manjavidze, T. Burden, G. Matisis, G. Goldstein, U. Gail, E. Humphreys, V. Pryimak, Y. Zindani, M. Eli, A. Kakoun, F. Maguid, O. Abutbul 9.

Subs used: T. Sukhasvili, M. Jeiker.

Referee: Craig Evans (Wales).

Standings: Czech Republic (6-1-1) 26; Switzerland (6-0-1) 24; Croatia (3-0-4) 17; Malta (3-0-5) 16; Israel (0-1-7) 4.

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