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Malta Rugby off to winning start in Slovenia

The Malta rugby national team were off to a winning start in the FIRA-AER Conference South 1 qualifiers when they beat Slovenia 24-10 in Ljubljana.

Damian Neill’s men put on an assured display on their return to international rugby after more than two years of stoppage due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

There was little to separate either side in the first half as the match was a hard-fought affair with both teams pushing continuously in search of the breakthrough.

The Maltese enjoyed a lot of possession but time and again they were let down by their handling of the ball and distribution in their opponents’ final third that scuppered any hopes of a try.

Malta did finally break the stalemate shy of the half hour mark.

From a line-out deep into the right flank, the ball was controlled by Darren Deguara, and aided by his team-mates driving maul, he was pushed over the line for Malta’s first try of the match.

Chris Dudman made no mistake from the resultant conversion to put the visitors 7-0 ahead at half-time.

On the restart, the match maintained the same script with Malta doing a lot of running against the more physical Slovenians.

Malta’s pressure finally yielded a second try on 58 minutes when Brendan Dalton latched onto a long pass to touch the ball beyond the goal line deep into the right flank. Dudman missed the conversion to leave Malta 12-0 ahead.

Slovenia did finally get on the scoresheet on the hour with a drop goal from Filip Matevz.

But Malta soon extended their advantage on Slovenia with a third well-worked try.

Rob Holloway took the ball five metres out and whizzed past two players to score underneath the posts. Dudman made no mistake from the conversion to hand Malta a commanding 19-3 lead.

Slovenia kept fighting and were awarded a penalty try when a Maltese player pulled an opponent when trying to pull out of a scrum.

But Malta still had the final say when substitute Jon Micallef burst through on the left channel for a try and seal his team’s 24-10 victory

Malta will now be back in action next month when they host Israel at the Tony Bezzina Stadium on Saturday, November 13.

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