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San Giljan make 2022 a year to remember

San Giljan players celebrate with the Championship trophy. Photo: Timmy Cutugno

San Gijlan were crowned champions of the BOV Waterpolo Championship 2022 after beating Sliema 16-12 in the second match of the finals series to win the Play-Off series 2-0. It was an immaculate display of waterpolo that included an almost perfect tactical plan, total application and accuracy.

Beto Fernandez’s side required to win to draw the series. However, it was San Giljan’s 12th championship win and surely, they never thought that they would win it so easily to make it a season to remember after winning their second double in three seasons.

Two-time Player of the Year Ben Plumpton was again in an irresistible vein yesterday as his six-goal bonanza and a spurt of goals in the third session, resulting from superb collective play had San Giljan pull the trigger against Sliema who until midway through the match were in contention to force a decider.

Sliema messed up their first man-up situation as San Giljan went three goals up – conversions from Nikolai Zammit from a five-metre throw, Darren Zammit and Ben Plumpton, the latter surprising Sliema goalkeeper Nicky Grixti with an angled shot. Their zone was invariably getting the Blues into all sorts of problems.

Sliema’s knack of grinding their teeth to produce their best in difficult situations was also very evident as Jayden Cutajar and Liam Galea cut the leeway to just one goal before the end of the first session.

Cutajar made it 3-3 with Sliema’s second man-up situation. It remained tight throughout the second session with San Giljan leading 4-3 through a fine backhand from Nicholas Bugelli but three quick goals opened a two- goal advantage for Sliema.

The contest was evenly poised. Goals from Bugelli, Plumpton and Andreas Galea helped San Giljan regain the lead almost two minutes before the end of the second session.

The Saints continued to gain ground as Matthias Ortoleva made it 8-6 at the end of a high-scoring session.

Cutajar’s goal on his side’s sixth extra-man set narrowed the deficit to 8-7, only for Plumpton to score from a great shot on the other side. A Grixti point-blank save on Nikolai Zammit kept Sliema’s head above water. It was swinging fare, as Sliema’s flat-out approach kept the San Giljan’s rearguard busy. But that left them vulnerable to quick counters.

With Sliema messing up consecutive man-up sets, things became more complicated for them as they were swamped by the devastating spell from the Saints, when they conceded five goals in that third session through Plumpton, three times, Russell Caruana and Jake Bonavia.

In the last quarter, Liam Galea trimmed down the deficit with Plumpton adding another goal for San Giljan to make it 14-8. Goals by Matthew Mifsud, Dino Zammit, Brownrigg and Kienan Borg made no difference except for statistical records as Nikolai Zammit restored their five-goal cushion directly from a free-throw. San Giljan skipper Matthew Zammit joining in the celebrations, put his name on the scoresheet for an emphatic 16-12 victory.

At the end of the match, Parliamentary Secretary Clifton Grima handed the coveted cup to former Sliema player Nicholas Bugelli.

SLIEMA 11

SAN GILJAN 16

(2-3, 4-5, 1-5, 5-3)

SLIEMA N. Grixti, J. Gabaretta , L. Galea 2, D. Rizzo, M. Meli, B Cachia , J. Cutajar 3, M. Mifsud 1, J.Brownrigg  2, J Gambin , Z. Mizzi 1 , D. Zammit 2 , A. Theuma, K. Borg 1.

SAN GILJAN J. Tanti, P. Borg , A. Galea 1 , N. Schiavone, R. Caruana 1, M. Zammit , B Plumpton 6, D. Tully, J.Bonavia 1, N. Zammit 2, D. Zammit 2, N. Bugelli 2, G. Vassallo, M. Ortoleva 1, D. Fero.

Referees: F. Gomez, A. deRaffaele.

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