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Rugby: Battling Malta secure top spot

Croatia 14
Malta 14

The Malta rugby national team secured top spot in the Conference 1 South when they battled to a 14-14 draw against Croatia in Zagreb yesterday.

Coming into the match with a perfect record of four wins out four, Damian Neill’s men needed to avoid defeat against the Croatians to seal top spot in the group.

The Maltese players produced a gallant performance that saw them come from behind to grab a priceless draw courtesy of James Morris late penalty that earned them two valuable points and leaves them top of the standings on 17 points.

Next month, the national team will face the Czech Republic in a promotion play-off for a place in the Europe Trophy Division.

The first half was evenly balanced with both teams pressing hard to seize the initiative but no tries were registered with the Maltese scoring the only points courtesy of a Morris penalty after 17 minutes that handed a 3-0 lead at the break.

On the restart, the visitors made a storming start and after Morris scored from another penalty, captain Domenic Busuttil bundled his way through the Croatian defence to touch the ball home for a try and hand Malta a commanding 11-0 lead.

But the hosts fought back strongly and they managed to turn the match in their favour with two converted tries scored in the space of ten minutes from Marko Buljac and Mirko Altamirano to give Croatia a 14-11 lead.

Malta’s response soon arrived and after a short spell of pressure they were awarded a central penalty which was ably converted by Morris that preserved Malta’s unbeaten record in the division. 

Croatia: I. Miljak, M. Altamirano 5, D. Brecic, M. Buljac 5, L. Perlain, J. Brajkovic, T. Milos, D. Rowe, M. Bunic, J. Ayoub 2, L. Rosso, N. Jurisic 2, T. Burazin, M. Grcic, L. Lerotic.

Malta: D. Cerketa, D. Holliday, T. Galdes, D. Deguara, C. Cassar, L. Watts, D. Apsee, M. Davey, T. Holloway, T. Quarendon, C. Dudman, D. Busuttil 5, R. Holloway, J. Kirk, J. Morris 9.

Referee: J. Molpeceres (Spain).

Next fixture: May 6 Cyprus vs Croatia.

Standings: Malta (3-1-0) 17; Israel (3-0-1) 14; Croatia (1-1-1) 8; Andorra (1-0-3) 4; Cyprus (0-0-3) 1.

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