A wounded Malta have succumbed to a spirited Czech Republic in Bodrum on Thursday, losing 40-16.
Malta raced to a 16-0 start before a stoppage following an injury where a Czech player had to be rushed to hospital.
At the restart, Czech Republic made the most of the break in play.
Malta debutant Jean Scholey and captain Shan Francois Hussain, were removed from the pitch due to injury before half-time, leaving Malta with no available healthy substitutions for the remaining 50 minutes of play.
Malta head coach Roderick Attard praised a number of his chargers, commenting, “Russell Bugeja on debut didn’t give up for 80 minutes, his fitness was a shining light for the red and white”.
“Zarrin Galea showed great leadership which reflected the level of competition he’s experienced to back in Australia”.
In literally a game of two halves, Malta’s Alfie Jewitt terrorised the Czech’s in the first half before a calf injury in the second.
Jean-Pierre Zarb ran some good lines and damaged the Czech defensive line.
Czech Republic assistant coach Gerard Keenan said the game turned at half-time, commenting “it was fabulous the way our team developed and came together as the game progressed, and testament to the belief the team had following our slow start”.
Malta now has three days to regroup and prepare their squad for Sunday’s international against the winner of Turkey and Netherlands, where Karl Cassar will be added to the Malta squad.
Malta Assistant Coach Anthony Micallef said Thursday’s result was extremely disappointing.
Micallef commented, “After such a strong start, it’s an extremely disappointing result. The players we lost throughout the game made things even more difficult, but a lack of match fitness was evident”.
“Such a lack of match fitness is a reflection of the adhoc nature and position of domestic rugby on the Maltese Islands. Add to that, COVID has also affected Malta’s activity just as it has globally”.