Sirens were made to delve deep into their fighting qualities to finally shake off Exiles’ stern challenge and land the Sports Journalists Cup after a 14-11 win on Saturday.
The excitement was not missing as Exiles enjoyed the lead until the last session before the Northenders turned tables on their opponents.
Sirens’ resurgence under the charge of coach Mako Orlovic is a result of diligent planning by the club which included the acquisition of Matthias Azzopardi and Ken Erdogan from Neptunes, Thomas Micallef from San Giljan and the return of Jacob Sciberras. Young talent has also surfaced with Matthew Sciberras, Gianni Farrugia and Isiah Riolo leading an influential backdrop to season campaigners Jerome Zerafa Gregory and John Napier.
Yet, Sirens’ season has not yet reached a climax as they will meet San Giljan on Tuesday in the first match of their three-game series Play Offs semi-finals.
Before the match, Exiles club stalwart Timmy Sullivan, 37, received a memento for his splendid service to the club after announcing his retirement.
A two-goal start for Exiles was annulled within two minutes by Sirens before the Sliema side nosed in front late in the first session. However, Ken Erdogan levelled the score on 3-3 before the end of the session.
Two quick goals from Aquilina restored Exiles’ two-lead goal after Jerome Zerafa Gregory had made it 4-4.
Goalkeeper Matthew Castillo was splendid, pulling off excellent saves. But Matthew Sciberras netted his second for a 6-5 scoreline at the second session.
Matteo Martellacci put Exiles two goals ahead as the contest roared and raged. But Sciberras and Gianni Farrugia scored in quick succession to restore the equilibrium.
Exiles responded with Sullivan and Aquilina to restore their two-goal cushion. It was neutralised in almost the same timeframe by Riolo and Sciberras.
Zerafa Gregory edged Sirens ahead for the first time at the start of the last session as John Napier extended their lead. Exiles were still full of fight and Sullivan pulled one goal to make it 11-10.
With Sean Xerri de Caro and Kurt Griscti excluded, their goalkeeper Castillo threw Exiles a lifeline when he blocked Sciberras’s five-metre throw. Aquilina helped to a double hat-trick to level matters on 11-11.
Mikhael Cutajar finally put the game to bed with a late brace for a final 14-11 score.
Mark Muscat and Dominic Aquilina from the Malta Sports Journalists Association presented the trophy to their captain John Napier.
SPORTS JOURNALISTS CUP
(3-3, 2-3, 4-3, 5-2)
SIRENS T. Micallef, P. Serracino, K. Erdogan 1, J. Sciberras 1, J. Zerafa Gregory 2, G. Farrugia 1, M. Chircop, I. Riolo 2, J. Napier 1, M. Cutajar 2, M. Sciberras 4, M. Azzopardi, M. Bonello Dupius. G. Mellilo. K. Agius
EXILES M. Castillo, N. Saliba, L. Gialanze, P. Paris, T. Sullivan 1, S. Xerri de Caro, M. Fenech, K. Griscti 1, N. Paris, J. Bajada 1, M. Aquilina 6, D. Fenech, G. Borg, M. Martellacci 1.
Referees A. Zedda, S. Licari