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San Giljan edge Sliema in title contenders’ first clash

San Giljan edged Sliema on Wednesday at the National Pool. Photo: Domenic Aquilina

SAN ĠILJAN 11

SLIEMA 9

(4-1, 5-4, 1-1, 1-3)

SAN ĠILJAN J. Tanti, P. Borg, A. Galea 2, N. Schiavone, R. Caruana 1, M. Zammit 1, B. Plumpton 1, D. Tully, J. Bonavia, N. Zammit 4, D. Zammit, N. Bugelli 1, G. Vassallo, M. Ortoleva 1.

SLIEMA N. Grixti, M. Mifsud 1, L. Galea 2, D. Rizzo, M. Meli, B. Cachia, J. Cutajar 1, K. Borg, J. Brownrigg 1, J. Gambin 2, Z. Mizzi, D. Zammit 2, A. Theuma.

Refs: A. Rovandi, A. deRaffaele

San Ġiljan struck a psychological blow on Sliema when they drew the first blood in their first encounter.

The match of the week saw these two title contenders lock horns in front of the biggest crowd of the season in a match that had both contestants battling it out for supremacy, but which finally went the way of the Saints courtesy of a solid display of waterpolo.

Wednesday’s match proved to be an acid test for Sliema, winners of the Enemed Cup and Winter League as they failed to make the grade and match their opponents in an intimidating game with San Ġiljan firing all cylinders, showing their true mettle.

With tight cover at both ends, the match was keen with neither side yielding an inch.

After going in front through Ben Plumpton, San Ġiljan surrendered their lead but the Saints hit back strongly to score three in quick succession. The more alert St Julians’ outfit took a 4-1 lead thanks to a brace by Andreas Galea and the former Sliema player Nicholas Bugelli.

With Sliema being denied by efficient blocking, Jamie Gambin still made it 4-2 but a goal by Nikolai Zammit maintained San Ġiljan’s three-goal advantage.

Sliema were always chasing the scoreline and at one point in the second session, they went just 5-4 down with Dino Zammit formerly of San Ġiljan and Liam Galea cut the leeway.

It was generally tight man-marking, as double cover on the respective centres gave the outside players some space for a pot at goal. This favoured San Ġiljan’s system as the duo Matthias Ortoleva and Nikolai Zammit were having a field day.

The Saints had clearly been the better team and their 9-5 lead by midpoint was fully justified.

Dino Zammit threw a lifeline when reducing the deficit to 9-6 but Nikolai Zammit kept his side’s four-goal advantage with the last session left.

At this point, Zeljko Kovacic’s side was reduced to bare bones when four players, namely Darren Zammit, Jake Bonavia, Ben Plumpton, and Andreas Galea were all out on fouls.

But so superior were they now, that they hardly felt this handicap apart from a late Sliema surge which fell short.

Tempers flared and a fight broke out between Dino Zammit and Peter Borg when they were both fouled out.

SIRENS 7

BIRŻEBBUĠA 5

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

SIRENS T. Micallef, P. Serracino, K. Erdogan, J. Sciberras, J. Zerafa Gregory 3, G. Farrugia 2, M. Chircop, I. Riolo, J. Napier, M. Cutajar, M. Sciberras, M. Azzopardi 1, M. Bonello Dupius.

BIRŻEBBUĠA M. Vassallo, J. Farrugia, N. Cassar, B. Grech 3, C. Mifsud, R. Mock, D. Farrugia, D. Cutajar, S. Bezzina, K. Tanti 1, G. Mannino 1, M. Curmi, M. Sladden, G. Mellilo 1.

Refs: G. Bonavita, R. Spiteri.

The match between Sirens and Birżebbuġa developed into tense affairs with both teams in contention up till the end as the Northenders consolidated their second spot in Group A with a hard-earned victory.

Marco Orlovic’s side played some efficient waterpolo throughout, helped by Jerome Zerafa Gregory who netted a hat-trick.

Sirens’ power play soon got them off the mark with Jerome Zerafa Gregory putting them 2-0 in front in the opening exchanges.

Both teams tossed away chances in favourable scoring situations before Keith Tanti made it 2-1.

But two goals at either end left the proceedings at the status quo at the end of the first session when the Northernenders edged their opponents 3-2.

After the Southseasiders pulled back level on 3-3, Sirens took matters in hand to lead 5-3 with goals from Gianni Farrugia on either side of half-time.

It was still balanced with the last session to go. Ben Grech hit back to make 5-4 but two late goals by Jerome Zerafa Gregory and Gregory Melillo put the issue beyond doubt. Grech kept his scoring momentum by completing his hat-trick.

MARSAXLOKK 12

BARRACUDAS 7

(6-0, 2-2, 3-1, 1-4)

MARSAXLOKK S. Mifsud, R. Spiteri, C. Cutajar, B. Zammit, T. Agius, D. Bugeja, M. Zammit 4, L. Mallia, L. Saliba 1, R. Galea 5, J. Valletta 1, A. Cook, M. Farrugia, E. Mallia 1, R. Scerri.

BARRACUDAS C. Bugeja, A. Piccione, A. Magri 1, P. Micallef, D. Ciantar 2, R. Sciortino 1, S. Aquilina 1, L. Galea 1, D. Camilleri, J. Bugeja, A. Mifsud 1, TJ Mifsud, M. Borg.

Refs: A. Rovandi, S. Licari

A superior Marsaxlokk eased to victory against Barracudas in Wednesday’s first match on the programme.

The result was practically sealed by the end of the first session as the Southseasiders netted six times to open an 8-2 lead before the change of ends.

Marsaxlokk won the third quarter 3-1 to allow their opponents to cut down the deficit from eight to five goals.

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