Neptunes are the champions for 2021. They won the title in style after dethroning their rivals San Giljan 10-6 to land their ninth title in 12 years and their 27th in their 93-year-old history. They are now only four titles away from the record held by rivals Sliema.
The Reds’ victory was the climax of a crescendo season for Neptunes, which was only punctured by Sliema in the previous match. However Jovan Popovic’s men reacted well to that defeat by showing their true mettle in a stellar performance.
Neptunes’ edge was beyond question with San Ġiljan starting on a trail of missed man-ups. The Reds forged ahead when Jake Muscat resolved his team’s first man-up set and then Gabriel Pace breached San Ġiljan’s defence again on a second man-up situation. Matthew Zammit pulled a goal back when he scored from close range.
Michael Spiteri Staines made it 3-1.
San Ġiljan reacted as Ben Plumpton and Matthew Zammit scored in quick succession to draw level. Only for few seconds though as Neptunes made four out of four man-up sets through Jordan Camilleri – 4-3.
San Ġiljan suddenly stalled as Alec Fenech scored a brace, in between, Mattias Ortoleva had reduced the deficit for the Saints.
With San Ġiljan 6-4 behind at the halfway stage and Andreas Galea excluded for three fouls, the onus was on them to make a game of it.
Plumpton pulled one back early in the third session. However, the Reds punished the Saints’ flat-out approach with a counter-attack. Ortoleva conceded a penalty and was fouled out. From the ensuing shot, Steven Camilleri made it 7-5. That gap was reduced by Dino Zammit soon after.
Exchanges remained evenly-balanced as Alan Borg Cole pulled off a great save from a point-blank effort by Zammit to keep his side 7-6 up before the start of the final quarter.
Both teams started running out of oxygen and ideas in the last quarter. Two minutes from time, Steven Camilleri produced the game’s defining moment when he beat the buzzer to give his side a two-goal cushion. Few moments later, Jake Muscat wrapped up the title for Neptunes. Then, youngster Max Farrugia put further gloss to the scoreline.
Earlier, Sirens were made to delve deep into their fighting qualities to finally shake off Exiles’s stern challenge and land the First Division title.
Excitement was not missing. Sirens under the charge of Marko Orlovic looked quite comfortable when they made it 4-1.
But Exiles guided by Aurelien Cousin, could never be shrugged off as they regained some sort of momentum to score three goals in succession for a 4-4 score. Only for Sirens to react and make it 5-4 before goals at each end left them 6-5 with Ganni Farrugia scoring the winning goal.
SAN ĠILJAN 6
(2-1, 4-3, 1-2, 3-0)
Neptunes: A.Borg Cole, J. Muscat 2, L. Calleja, G. Pace 1, M. Castillo, J. Spiteri Staines, S. Camilleri 2, J. Camilleri 1, J Abela, M. Spiteri Staines 1, A. Fenech 2, S. Gialanze, A Bugeja, M. Farrugia 1, R. Galea.
San Giljan: R. Coleiro, D. Zahra, A. Galea, D.Fero, R. Caruana, M. Zammit 2, B Plumpton 2, J. Bonavia, D. Ciantar, Darren Zammit, K. Galea, Dino Zammit 1, G. Vassallo, M. Ortoleva 1, D. Tully.
Refs Alex DeRaffaele, Alessandro Roberty.
(2-3, 1-2, 2-3, 4-3)
Valletta: T.Micallef, P. Borg, E. Aquilina 1, M. Stellini, A. Agius, R. Mock, D. Paolella, M. Mifsud, N. Farrugia, N. Zammit 6, M. Zammit 1, N. Lanzon 1, R. Sciortino, K. Tanti, M. Mannino.
Marsaskala: J. Micallef, JC. Cutajar, A. Camenzuli, P. Privitera 1, G. Sammut 3, L. Grixti, K. Navarro 1, M. Manara 3, S. Micallef 1, L.Felice, J. Ciantar 1, M. Carani 1, A. Muscat, G. Galea, D. Camilleri.
Refs: R. Spiteri, A. Roberty.
(1-0, 2-1,1-2, 2-2)
Sirens: G. Galea Curmi, M. Grech, K. Erdogan 1, J. Sciberras, J. Zerafa Gregory 2, G. Farrugia 2, M. Sciberras, I. Riolo 1, J. Napier, T. Said, L. Caruana, M. Azzopardi, O. Gauci, L. Grech Carr, M. Chircop.
Exiles: M. Castillo, N. Saliba 1, S. Apap, M. Naudi, T. Sullivan, S. Xerri de Caro 1, M. Fenech 1, K. Griscti, N. Paris 1, J. Bajada, M. Aquilina 1, D. Fenech, G. Borg, E. Micallef, M. Attard Bondi
Refs: P. Balzan, A. Torneo.