(2-2, 3-3, 0-5, 2-5)
MARSAXLOKK S. Mifsud R. Spiteri, C. Cutajar, B. Zammit, T. Agius 1, D. Bugeja, D. Cordina, L. Mallia 2, L. Saliba, R. Galea 1, J. Valletta 2, A. Cook, M. Farrugia
EXILES M. Castillo, N. Saliba, L. Gialanze 1, P. Paris 3, T. Sullivan, S. Xerri de Caro, M. Fenech 1, K. Griscti 2, N. Paris 1, J. Bajada, M. Aquilina 5, D. Fenech, G. Borg, M. Martelacci 2.
Refs: A. Roberti, R. Spiteri
Exiles and Neptunes both had to stage a late recovery to save the game and earn the points. Valletta had it easy against Otters.
Five goals by Exiles netted in the third session lifted the uneasiness that beset their game in the first two periods and was the cornerstone of their victory over Marsaxlokk in yesterday’s first match.
The first two sessions were close affairs as Nenad Navarin brought the best out of his young players, who kept breathing down their opponents’ necks. After Marsaxlokk twice pulled back to level to 2-2, they tried to make matters in hand to lead 5-3 in the second session.
But Aurelien Cousin’s team took complete control from the third session onwards and their dominance helped them to a goal spree. They topped the scoring charts in the third session, scoring five goals without reply after they had changed ends 5-5.
Max Aquilina was Exiles’ top scorer with five conversions followed by Philip Paris who netted a hat-trick.
(1-6, 1-4, 1-1, 2-5)
OTTERS M.Xerri, M. Bonnici, K. Scicluna 1, L. Grech Carr, M. Farrugia 1, D. Dimech, I. Azzopardi, S. Dimech 2, L. Dimech 1, S. Apap, Z. Bartolo, A. Dimech, G. Gatt Ellis,
VALLETTA B. Busuttil, N. Farrugia, M. Pace, L. Hyzler 1, S. Busuttil 4, T. Said, D. Paolella, M. Mifsud 3, S. Micallef 2, A. Agius 1, K. Galea 1, J. Culic 1, A. Bugeja, R. Attard 1, L. Felice 2.
Refs: S. Licari, A. Doro
In the second match, Valletta finally broke the duck when they easily disposed of Otters in a one-sided match. The gulf in class between the teams was evident from the very beginning with the Citizens taking a five-goal lead in the opening session. Once Valletta broke loose in that opening session, the frequency of their conversions waned especially after the change of ends.
That advantage of eight goals was extended to 11 by the end of the match. Sebastian Busuttil was their chief top scorer with four goals followed by Michele Mifsud with a hat-trick.
(0-0, 2-3, 5-1, 6-2)
NEPTUNES A. Borg Cole, J. Muscat, S. Gialanze 1, J. Cachia 2, J. Spiteri Staines 1, S. Camilleri 1, J. Camilleri 3, M. Farrugia, M. Spiteri Staines 1, A. Fenech 3, M. Castillo 1.
BIRŻEBBUĠIA M. Vassallo, J. Farrugia, N. Cassar, B. Grech 2, C. Mifsud, R. Mock, D. Farrugia, D. Cutajar, N. Fenech, K. Tanti 3, G. Mannino 1, M. Curmi, M. Sladden
Refs: M. Angilleri, A. Roberti
In the first session, Birżebbuġia stuck to a solid cover plan when within their own five-metre area to frustrate their more-quoted opponents time and again. In fact, the Reds without Jake Muscat were unable to find enough space for a pot and when they did, they found Neil Cassar sticking out his hand to deny them.
The Balluta Bay team took nine minutes before breaching the Blues’ lines. Alec Fenech gave Neptunes the lead in the second session with the Southseasiders equalising immediately through Ben Grech. Jake Cachia made it 2-1 for the Reds but a brace from Ben Grech gave Birżebbuġa a shocking 3-2 advantage before the change of ends. Grech put his side ahead with a distant shot which caught Alan Borg Cole by surprise.
This situation forced Neptunes coach Jovan Popovic to put Steven Camilleri, just back from his overseas commitments, into the water. The Reds finally found some rhythm with Michael Spiteri Staines and Cachia orchestrating play on the outside positions. With Camilleri being given much attention in the centre, the Reds were still strong in their forays as they scored five times without reply.
Birżebbuġa fell four goals behind in the third quarter, but Keith Tanti reduced the deficit to 7-4 before the start of the last session. Jordan Camilleri got his name on the scorers’ list for an 8-4 Neptunes advantage early in the last session. Giuseppe Mannino made it 8-5 for the Blues. But that was as far as the southerners could go as Jerome Spiteri Staines, Cachia, Jordan Camilleri, Fenech, and Sam Gialanze added to the Champions’ tally.
FRIDAY Group A 6.15pm Sirens Mecca Marine vs Neptunes Videoslots, 7.25pm Otters Nivea vs B’Buga Freeport; Group B 8.25pm Exiles vs San Giljan JP Projects