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Stompers crowned champions

Stompers players in jubilant mood after winning the National League at the Marsa Stadium last weekend. Photo: Zara Ameen

Stompers players in jubilant mood after winning the National League at the Marsa Stadium last weekend. Photo: Zara Ameen

Stompers 43
Swieqi Overseas 38

(after extra-time; 80 mins: 24-24)

This was a game fitting of a Grand Final.

It had everything, passion, drama, high emotion, disappointments, challenges and victories, the kind of game that neither side deserved to lose with the maximum effort that was put into it by all the players..

The final score was 24 all, at the 80-minute mark, but Stompers Re/Max won it 43-38 after the extra 20 minutes played to take sweet revenge after losing to the same opponents in the Mediterranean Bank Cup final last week.

Stompers seemed a bit flat in the first half, when I thought they would come firing out of the blocks after last week’s loss.

But in hindsight they paced themselves throughout the game and had enough energy in the tank, when they needed it, to close out the game.

Overseas scored two tries in the first 20 minutes with Anthony Harvey from a maul and Devante Hinds  from a tight head scrum that allowed him to have the better of his opposite number on the outside and a swerve back inside to beat the cover.

Dudman converted one to put his team 12-0 ahead as Stompers were still trying to get into the game after having Gum yellow-carded.

The Overseas backline was running smoothly, keeping the Stompers defence busy, Cameron Brown grubbered through, Sarres was his usual penetrating self, ghosting through the gaps, taking play to within 10 metres of Stompers line, then Harvey struck again, scoring from close – 17-0.

Overseas lost Sarres through injury and that turned out to be a big loss as Stompers flicked a switch and raised their game, scoring two tries, one from Tom Pace-Moore after a period of indiscipline by the Overseas’ forwards and then a try by Luke Debattista after a strong run by Isaac Bezzina down the middle, after an offload by Debattista.

The score was now close at 17-14 for Overseas.

It was a momentum shift, Stompers were high on emotion at last and taking the game to Overseas.

That surge carried through into the second half with two tries within 15 minutes through Jeremy Debattista in the corner and Bezzina ranging out wide on the wing, to put Stompers in front for the first time – 24-17.

Dudman was running at pace trying to get his team back into the game. Overseas upped their tempo and pressurised Stompers’ scrum driving them back over their tryline.

Da Silva flashed yellow cards to Hinds for Overseas and Calvin Briffa for Stompers. Harvey drove again from a lineout and maul bringing the scores level at full-time, 24-24.

Into extra time, the immense heat was sapping the players’ energy.

In the first minute of extra-time, Nathan Gatt put Stompers ahead with the conversion – 31-24.

But Overseas came straight back at them with Dudman running strongly to score, converting his try to tie up the match at 31-31.

Camilleri scored under the posts, punching his way straight through a double tackle by Dudman and Rhys Barry who was on for the injured Sarres – 38-31.

Just to keep up the intensity another yellow card went to Stompers’ Julian Caruana straight after he had scored from a sweeping backline move downfield, from hero to zero in a minute - 43-31.

Overseas lifted their game again reminiscent of last week’s final and back they came still sniffing a chance for an upset and that man Harvey scored his fourth try from a lineout maul, Dudman slotted the conversion from out wide bringing Overseas just five points behind.

But that came too little too late as Stompers held on for the win.

Men of the Match: Isaac Bezzina (S), Dragan Cerketa (S), Anthony Harvey (O), Chris Dudman (O).

Third place play-off: Falcons vs Kavallieri 63-7.

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