Neptunes yesterday brushed aside the challenge of rivals Sliema in impressive fashion to set up an intriguing showdown against San Ġiljan that will decide the destiny of this year’s championship.
As for San Ġiljan, it was another relatively easy win over Sirens.
The final between San Ġiljan and Neptunes will surely have the usual dose of hype even if played in a reduced format, without foreigners and behind closed doors.
In the big match of the day, Neptunes inspired by an in-form front duo made of Jake Muscat and Steve Camilleri, made short shrift of Sliema when defeating them 11-7.
Neptunes struck twice earlier on through Steven Camilleri and Jake Muscat, who resolved a double man-up set, with Sliema restricted to shooting hurriedly from a distance before John Brownrigg reduced the deficit. Muscat, in good scoring form, opened a 3-1 lead for the Reds at the end of the first session.
Sliema were forced to pull up their sleeves with Brownrigg and Zach Mizzi netting the goals to level matters midway through the second session. Still the Balluta Bay team again edged their opponents when Nicolai Zammit put Neptunes 4-3 ahead before the end of the second session.
Yet two quick goals by Jordan Camilleri who beat the 30-second buzzer with a potent shot and Muscat opened a three-goal advantage for Neptunes at the start of the third session. Sliema kept chasing the scoreline with Jerome Gabarretta and Nicholas Bugelli cutting the leeway to two goals. But Neptunes went again on a three-goal cushion with a superb back-hand effort by Muscat.
Alan Borg Cole was in tremendous form, keeping Sliema at bay on numerous occasions but Sliema kept messing up their extra-man advantages. The Reds kept pegging and took a 11-5 lead midway through the final session before slipping into semi-casual more. That allowed Sliema to reduce the gap to four goals.
Sirens’ chances of upsetting San Ġiljan were very slim from the outset. There was no question about their superiority any slight doubts about the outcome were soon dispelled when San Ġiljan opened a 8-3 advantage before ends were shifted.
Dorian Pisani kept giving his young players a feel of the water with San Ġiljan leading 12-4 as the third session went in favour of the Saints like the first two. The fourth quarter session saw Sirens concede three other goals that propelled San Ġiljan to a comfortable win.
(3-1, 1-2, 4-2, 3-2)
NEPTUNES: A. Borg Cole, J. Muscat 4, L. Calleja, G. Pace 1, S. Busuttil, J. Spiteri Staines, S. Camilleri 3, J. Camilleri 1, J. Abela, N. Zammit 2, S. Stellini, S. Gialanze, B. Busuttil.
SLIEMA: N. Grixti, J. Gabarretta 1, L. Galea, J. Sciberras, M. Meli, B. Cachia, M. Spiteri Staines, J. Soler, J. Brownrigg 2, Z. Mizzi 1, N. Bugelli 3, Z. Sciberras.
Refs: Stefan Licari, Peter Balzan
SAN ĠILJAN 14
(2-5, 1-3, 1-4, 2-3)
SIRENS: J. Parnis, J. Ciantar, K. Erdogan 1, G. Mellilo, J. Zerafa Gregory, T. Said, L. Falzon, I. Riolo, J. Napier, M. Cutajar, M. Sciberras 3, M. Azzopardi 1, G. Galea Curmi, G. Farrugia 1.
SAN ĠILJAN: J. Tanti, K. Tanti, A. Galea 3, D. Ciantar, M. Mannino 1, M. Zammit 4, B. Plumpton 1, J. Bonavia, Z. Micallef, Darren Zammit, P. Fava 1, Dino Zammit 5, G. Vassallo.
Refs: Ronnie Spiteri, Alex deRaffaele.