San Ġiljan struck a psychological blow in the title race on the eve of the play-offs when they beat Neptunes for the third consecutive time this summer.
With both sides already guaranteed a spot in the play-offs’ semi-final, San Ġiljan re-asserted their dominance on Neptunes when they swamped their opponents by a four-goal margin.
Dorian Pisani’s side won all their matches in both phases – preliminary round and crossovers- showing tactical and physical superiority in water to start as favourites to land this summer’s championship.
San Ġiljan took off solidly to build a 5-1 advantage by the end of the first session. They produced some exhilarating fare in the first session, with Matthew Zammit, Ben Plumpton and Dino Zammit running circles round the Neptunes rearguard. Their attacking phase had no answer from Neptunes who were at their wits’end trying to find an opening through the Saints’ rearguard when in possession.
Ben Plumpton’s sharpness helped him find the net twice in that first session. He opened his scoring account with a sublime shot from the edge of the pool halfway that went over the incredulous Alan Borg Cole. Likewise, Dino Zammit scored a brace with Matthew Zammit netting the other goal. Neptunes had equalised temporarily on 1-1 through Jeremy Abela.
Loose covering from the Saints rearguard helped the opportunistic Jake Mucat to close the gap to 5-2. Jake Tanti’s misjudged sortie enabled Gabriel Pace to pull back yet another goal, before Jeremy Abela’s shot made it 5-4.
The Reds breathed fresh oxygen with San Ġiljan losing the momentum of the initial session. But San Ġiljan earned some breathing space through Dino Zammit who converted a penalty before the change of ends.
Muscat put Neptunes within touching distance from San Ġiljan but Matthew Zammit soon restore his side’s two-goal cushion.
Then came the volte-face when Neptunes earned a penalty with San Ġiljan’s Paul Fava expelled in the action leading to the penalty. But Tanti expertly blocked Steven Camilleri’s penalty. Tanti transferred the ball upfront quickly as Plumpton completed his hat-trick.
James Spiteri Staines reduced the deficit by a goal early in the fourth session, but very few could see Neptunes saving the game given the opponents’ efficient blocking. In fact, San Ġiljan continued to increase their lead when Plumpton reached a poker of goals with the youngster Jake Bonavia also putting his name on the scoresheet.
Earlier on, Exiles earned a hard-fought victory over Birżebbuġia.They went into overdrive in the second session which they won 4-1.
Birżebbuġia were erratic in some occasions on their man-ups, with Exiles on their part, enjoying a better man-up conversion, when they netted six on seven man-ups. However, with Exiles more intent on playing out time in the last session,Birżebbuġia reduced the deficit to just a goal in the final session.
When they regained possession with 34 second left they could not save the game as David Cutajar’s effort was blocked by the Exiles’ rearguard.
(3-2, 4-1, 4-4, 1-4)
Exiles: G. Borg, J. Bajada 2, A. Magri, P. Paris, T. Sullivan 2, S. Xerri de Caro, K. Griscti 3, N. Paris 3, A. Cousin 2, S. Apap, D. Fenech, M. Castillo.
BIRŻEBBUĠA: M. Rossi, J. Farrugia 1, N. Cassar, D. Pace Lupi 1, C. Mifsud, P. Serracino, S. Vassallo 3, D. Cutajar 3, M. Bonnici, M. Borg 2, R. Spiteri, S. Fava, M. Sladden, B. Grech 1.
Refs: Ronnie Spiteri, Neville Mercieca.
SAN ĠILJAN 10
(5-1, 1-3, 2-1, 2-1)
San Ġiljan: J. Tanti, K. Tanti, A. Galea, M. Mannino, M. Zammit 2, B. Plumpton 3, J. Bonavia 1, Z. Micallef, Darren Zammit, P. Fava, Dino Zammit 3, G. Vassallo
Neptunes: A. Borg Cole, J. Muscat 2, L.Calleja, G. Pace 1, S.Busuttil, J. Spiteri Staines 1, S. Camilleri, J. Camilleri, J. Abela 2, N. Zammit, S. Stellini, S. Gialanze, B. Busuttil.
Refs: Peter Balzan, Massimo Angileri.