Coach Neill eyes winning finale against Andorra
Malta coach Damian Neill is not underestimating the threat posed by Andorra as the rugby national team look to end their commitments in the Conference South 1 with a perfect record at the Hibs Stadium this afternoon (kick-off: 2pm).
Last weekend, the Malta Rugby made it three wins in a row when they battled past Israel 24-17 in Netanya to go four points clear at the top of the Israelis and with a game in hand.
Thus a win this afternoon will secure top spot in the Conference South 1 for a second successive season and a place in a promotion play-off against the top team in Conference North 1, which is currently held by Lithuania.
But Neill is refusing to get carried away and said that warned his players that they need to improve on Saturday’s performance against Israel if they are to beat the Andorrans this afternoon.
“It was very satisfying to come away with a win against a tough side like Israel,” Neill said.
“But if I had to be honest that I was not fully satisfied with my team’s display. There were part of the match where we played well and other where we didn’t and it’s my job to improve those areas.
“I felt that our defensive game could have been much better. Lapses of concentration could have easily cost us the match and we must keep our concentration levels high until the final whistle, irrespective of who we are playing.”
On paper, Malta should find little difficult to dispose of an Andorra side that is still in search of its first win in the group after losing to Bosnia 20-17 last Saturday.
But Neill, said that the Andorrans are likely to come to Malta with a far stronger squad as they have recovered a number of key players who ply their trade in the French league.
“Andorra will be a completely different proposition to the one that played Bosnia on Saturday,” Neill said.
“They have a number of players who are back in the squad after playing for their clubs in the French league so they will surely be stronger. Fitness-wise they are a very strong side and are very defensive-orientated.
“They are also very dangerous when attacking as many of their players are accustomed to sevens rugby so they will surely be looking to push up quickly in defence to try and intercept the ball to create one-on-one situations that will surely cause us a lot of damage.
“For us it will be vital to impose our expansive rugby game and if we manage to move the ball with pace we can certainly create a lot of problems to Andorra.”
Remaining fixtures: Today: 2pm Malta vs Andorra. April 28: 2pm Croatia vs Bosnia. May 5: 4pm Andorra vs Croatia.
Standings: Malta (3-0-0) 14; Israel (2-0-2) 10; Croatia (1-0-1) 4; Bosnia (1-0-2) 4; Andorra (0-0-2) 2.