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Malta U-19 beat Britain to seal place in European Championship finals

Malta U-19 players celebrate their qualification to the European Championship finals. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

MALTA 9

GREAT BRITAIN  6

(4-3, 2-1, 2-0, 1-2)

MALTA

A. Bugeja, M. Mifsud 1, D. Tully, D. Rizzo 2, J. Cachia 1, R. Galea, J. Cutajar 1, M. Castillo 2, K. Borg, J. Bonavia, A. Fenech 1, G. Farrugia 1, G. Vassallo.

GREAT BRITAIN

B. Malachy, R. Inman, F. Quinn 2, A. Lecomber 1, H. Dunkerley, H. Bentham, C. Kingsmill 1, D. Day, O. Vodden, T. Simpson 2, C. Bradley, J. Blenkinship, A. Ganguli.

Refs: A. Ovanezian (Bulgaria), A. Mustata (Romania)

Another Malta waterpolo national team grabbed the headlines on Friday when the U-19 selection beat Great Britain 9-6 to earn a place amongst the top 16 nations in next summer’s European Championships to be held in Montenegro.

Anthony Farrugia’s side had to fend off a plucky Great Britain side to earn qualification with a game in hand to confirm the great strides the Maltese have made in this sport.

On Saturday morning, Malta will meet the Netherlands with top spot in the group at stake.

In the opening session, Malta conceded the initiative to Great Britain, who led 2-0 by the midpoint before Jake Cachia reduced the deficit.

Francis Quinn had given the visitors a 3-1 lead, but the local boys reacted well to level matters through Matthew Mifsud and Alec Fenech. With few seconds to go in the first session, Mark Castillo netted a brilliant goal to put Malta ahead for the first time.

Malta stepped up a gear in the second quarter as they shifted to a tighter press. Daniel Rizzo made it 5-3 but Great Britain reduced the gap through Charles Kingsmill. Before the end of the session, Gianni Farrugia resolved a break for a 6-4 scoreline.

In the third session, Jayden Cutajar and Mark Castillo showed all their scoring instincts to make it a sound lead before the last session.

The Maltese players’ shooting was not accurate enough. However, efficient blocking in front of a safe Andrew Bugeja between the sticks made for a sound platform.

Quinn and Tom Simpson pulled two goals back at the start of the last quarter as nerves started to creep into the Maltese players.

At this point, Malta was not to be outdone.

Rizzo scored to extend Malta’s lead as they managed to administer their advantage admirably and finish 9-6 winners amid the satisfaction of the few Maltese supporters who braved the inclement weather at the national pool.

However, a final fracas between both sets of players in the water at the end of the match marred the celebrations.

OTHER RESULT: Netherlands vs Finland 29-3.

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