A superior Neptunes stepped into the driving seat from the second session onwards to take San Ġiljan by storm and thus obtain a valuable headstart at the beginning of the Premier Division.
The Reds made a flying start as they took a 3-0 lead over an edgy San Ġiljan who were otherwise thwarted by an unyielding Reds rearguard.
Still the Saints fought back and late goals by Peter Borg, Ben Plumpton and Nikolai Zammit restored parity.
In the second session, Neptunes started firing on all cylinders when Camilleri and Jake Muscat (2), gave the Reds a 6-4 lead. San Ġiljan’s stringent press was proving costly in terms of expulsions as Camilleri converted a penalty to make it 7-4.
On the other side, Ortoleva was guilty of fluffing two consecutive man-up advantages.
Ominously for San Ġiljan, captain Matthew Zammit was excluded for good in the third session as Camilleri was enjoying every minute of it.
The Neptunes captain hit a poker before Plumpton threw a lifeline when reducing the deficit to 8-5 with the last session left.
Neptunes restricted their opponents to distant shooting despite Peter Borg’s hard work in the centre.
Two conversions from the Reds, a first goal from Alec Fenech after good work by Camilleri and a fourth from the usual Muscat, extended the lead to four goals.
Neptunes surviving with seven of their units on two major fouls, were intent on battling on.
Nicholas Bugelli made it 10-7 but Jordan Camilleri marshalled the defence superbly in front of a sound Alan Borg Cole in goal to keep their opponents at arms’ length.
In the opening match, Marsaskala were too strong for their opponents Otters with the 9-4 result indicating the superiority the south seasiders had as a collective unit as well as individually.
They obtained a sound 4-1 base at the interval. Arpad Babay’s team pulled the strings to stretch their lead to 6-3 by the end of the third session. Veteran David Pace Lupi ended their chief scorer with a hat-trick.
Marsaxlokk vs Ta’ Xbiex was effectively a Neptunes vs Sliema encounter as this year both teams are serving as satellite teams for these two rivals.
Ta’ Xbiex were off to a better start, taking a 5-1 lead at the end of the opening quarter.
Their advantage was maintained in the next session when Marsaxlokk edged them 4-3.
But in the third session, the south seasiders recouped the leeway when they netted three times without reply.
But in the final session, Ta’ Xbiex made up of youth players from the Sliema side finally turned the tables on their opponents.
(2-0, 2-1, 2-2, 3-1)
MARSASKALA: J. Micallef, A. Camenzuli 1, P. Privitera, R. Greco 1, G. Galea, K. Navarro 1, M. Manara, D. Pace Lupi 3, G. Sammut 1, J. Ciantar, M. Carani 1, A. Muscat, S. Fava, L. Falzon 1.
OTTERS: M. Xerri, M. Bonnici, K. Scicluna 1, L. Grech Carr, M. Farrugia 1, D. Dimech, I. Azzopardi, S. Dimech, L. Dimech 1, S. Apap, Z. Bartolo, A. Dimech 1, M. Grech, K. Micallef.
Refs: G. Fusco, N. Mercieca.
TA’ XBIEX 11
(1-5, 4-3, 3-0, 1-3)
MARSAXLOKK: S. Mifsud, R. Spiteri, C. Cutajar 2, B. Zammit, T. Agius, D. Bugeja 1, M. Zammit, L. Mallia 2, J. Borg Tabone, R. Galea 3, J. Valletta 1, E. Mallia, M. Farrugia.
TA’ XBIEX: R. Coleiro, JC Saliba, E. Aquilina 2, J. Pace Mizzi, E. Meli, S. Engerer, J. Saliba, J. Cassar 1, E. Schembri 6, Z. Cutajar Licari 2, B. Attard Littschw, J. Chircop, D. Galea Mule.
Refs: M. Luciani, A. de Raffaele.
SAN ĠILJAN 7
(3-3, 3-1, 2-1, 2-2)
NEPTUNES: A. Borg Cole, J. Muscat 4, S. Gialanze, G. Pace, J. Cachia, J. Spiteri Staines, S. Camilleri 4, J. Camilleri, J. Abela, M. Spiteri Staines 1, A. Fenech 1, M. Castillo, M. Rossi, M. Farrugia.
SAN ĠILJAN: J. Tanti, P. Borg 1, A. Galea, N. Schiavone, R. Caruana, M. Zammit, B. Plumpton 2, D. Tully, J. Bonavia, N. Zammit 2, D. Zammit 1, N. Bugelli 1, G. Vassallo, M. Ortoleva, D. Fero.
Refs: G. Fusco, P. Balzan.
Tuesday: First Division KO QF1 6.30pm Barracudas SC vs Ta’ Xbiex; QF2 7.35pm Otters vs Marsaxlokk