The Malta rugby national team put in a valiant display to fend off Israel in a thrilling encounter at the Tony Bezzina Stadium.
A Mark Davey try with 15 minutes to go handed the Maltese side a hard-fought victory in a match that saw them battling valiantly to fend off the physical challenge of the Israeli side.
The match had different facets with the Israeli dominating play for much of the opening half hour. But Damian Neill’s men refused to lie down and soaked up the pressure.
Richard Gum’s try for Malta turned the match’s momentum as from then on the home side started to cause more damage to their more-quoted opponents.
The match looked to be heading out of Malta’s reach when Israel took a 13-8 lead early in the second half.
But the national team’s never-say-die attitude again came to the fore to strike late on to claim their second successive win in the competition.
It looked tough for the home side at the start as Israel seized the initiative right from the outset. They piled up the pressure on the Malta defence with wave after wave of attacks from their forwards with the home side fighting hard to keep their opponents at bay.
Malta lost Jeremy Debattista in the opening minutes of the match after he came worse in a tackle with Gal Avriram and had to be replaced by Luke Matthew.
The pressure from the visitors was continuous but the Maltese were somewhat managing to keep them out.
Israel only managed to go ahead after 14 minutes of play when they were awarded a penalty and Mati Gordon duly converted to put his team 3-0 up.
Malta continued to struggle to gain the initiative as Israel continue to dominate play and earned a second penalty which was again converted by Gordon to hand the visitors a 6-0 lead.
Chris Dudman then was unlucky to see his penalty attempt coming off the post.
But the Maltese were not demoralised and they quickly surged forward and Tom Holloway set up Richard Gum for the first try of the match.
Dudman missed the conversion to leave Malta trailing 6-5.
The Malta centre made up for that miss minutes later when he converted a central penalty to put the hosts’ 8-6 ahead.
On the stroke of half-time, Malta had the chance to further extend their advantage but Dudman miscued his effort.
After the break, the match was evenly balanced with both sides trying to seize the initiative.
Israel had the chance to regain the lead eight minutes after restart but Gordon miscued his attempt from a penalty.
But the Israeli managed to score their first try shoot after when Adrian Rainstean intercepted a pass to storm through to touch home. Gordon duly converted to put the visitors 13-8 ahead.
Israel found themselves with a player less soon after when Nicholas Mayor was sinbinned for foul play.
Malta now piled up the pressure in their bid to turn the match around and their efforts were rewarded with 15 minutes to go when Mark Davey burst through for a much-needed try.
Dudman made no mistake from the conversion to put the hosts 15-3 ahead.
Matthew Spiteri, a late substitute for Malta, was sinbinned with five minutes to go, leaving the hosts with a man less for the final minutes of the match.
But somewhat Malta managed to preserve their lead to claim a famous victory.
MALTA: R. Apsee, P. Martin, D. Cerketa, M. Barbara, D. Deguara, B. Borg, D. Apsee, M. Davey 5, T. Holloway, R. Holloway, B. Dalton, D. Busuttil, C. Dudman 5, J. Debattista, R. Gum 5.
Subs used: L. Matthew, T. Davey, T. Galdes, M. Spiteri.
ISRAEL: Y. Harris, T. Bracha, N. Reizel, T. Burden, Y. Shulman, Y. Engel, U. Majavidze, U. Gail 3, O. Levinson, M. Gordon 5, A. Rainstein 5, M. Eli, I. Eisenberg, G. Aviram, V. Pryimak.
Subs used: E. Humphreys, M. Eli, D. Stein.
Referee Pedro Mendez (Portugal).