Exiles force decider against Sirens
Sliema had their sights firmly set on sealing their place in the play-off semifinals against Neptunes and easily dispose of Birżebbuġa in the second of the best-out-three quarter-final series.
As expected Birżebbuġa played second fiddle to Sliema.
Playing soundly in the covering phase and blocking well on their opponents’ firing range, Birżebbuġa managed to limit their more-quoted opponents, Sliema, to a reasonably low three-goal deficit to go into the half-time 5-2 down.
But when the Blues extended their lead to 10-3 by the end of the third quarter, any lingering hopes that the Southseasiders might run Sliema close were dismissed despite by Sergio Afric to rest some of his established players.
Veteran John Soler – brought out of retirement earlier this season – netted twice as Sliema produced their best waterpolo of the evening.
The last session had little to offer as Sliema continued to press home their advantage, wrapping up the series with a comfortable 12-4 victory.
Exiles and Sirens will meet again in game three as the Sliema side levelled their quarter-final series with an emphatic win over the St Paul’s Bay outfit.
Igor Vukanovic’s side showed extraordinary battling qualities to record 13-7 win to level the series at 1-1.
Sirens had a flying start as they took a 2-0 lead over an edgy Sirens.
Exiles reacted for 3-2 advantage at the end of the first session.
The Sliema side started to impose themselves in the second session when they opened a three-goal lead and from then on they never looked back.
Exiles might have been galvanised by that reaction as they bossed the second quarter, looking always the sharper side. Sirens were rattled by their opponents as Kurt Griscti netted twice and Mark Fenech completed his hat-trick for a 7-2 lead at the halfway stage.
Fenech, proving his emerging worth, potted goal number four with Jake Bajada emulating Fenech with a spectacular back-hand to make it 9-2.
Exiles’ scoring momentum did not show any signs of waning as Timothy Sullivan, Fenech and Griscti piled more misery on their opponents.
Exiles had their feet off the accelerator in the last quarter only for Sirens to somewhat put their sloppy performance behind them when they won 5-1 to make the scoreline more respectable.
(1-2, 1-3, 1-5, 1-2)
Birżebbuġa: M. Rossi, J. Farrugia 2, N. Cassar, D. Pace Lupi, C. Mifsud, P. Serracino, S. Vassallo 1, D. Cutajar 1, M. Bonnici, M. Borg, R. Spiteri, S. Fava, M. Sladden.
Sliema: N. Grixti, J. Gabarretta 3, L. Galea, J. Sciberras 1, M. Meli 1, B. Cachia 1, M. Spiteri Staines 1, J. Soler 2, Z. Mizzi 1, N. Bugelli 2, Z. Sciberras.
Refs: Alex de Raffaele, Ronnie Spiteri.
(2-3, 0-4, 0-5, 5-1)
Sirens: J. Parnis, J. Ciantar, K. Erdogan, G. Mellilo, J. Zerafa Gregory 1, T. Said 2, L. Falzon, I. Riolo, J. Napier, M. Cutajar, M. Sciberras 1, M. Azzopardi 1, O. Gauci, G. Farrugia 1, G. Sammut 1.
Exiles: M. Castillo, J. Bajada 1, A. Magri, P. Paris, T. Sullivan 1, S. Xerri de Caro, M. Fenech 5, K. Griscti 3, N. Paris 1, A. Cousin 2, S. Apap, D. Fenech, G. Borg.
Refs: Massimo Angileri, Stefan Licari.