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Malta rugby made to pay as Bulgaria open campaign in style

Photo: Christine Borg

MALTA            14

BULGARIA       23

The Malta rugby national team suffered a disappointing start to their FIRA-AER Conference South 1 campaign when they were beaten by Bulgaria at the Tony Bezzina Stadium.

The Bulgarians deserved to take the spoils as they held the edge on the home side for much of the opening hour and took full advantage from the Maltese’s indiscipline.

In fact, some foul play from the home side regaled a series of penalties to the Bulgarians who they fully exploited and then further rubberstamped their dominance with two more tries to open their campaign with a convincing win.

Malta did show marked improvement after the break, but the damage had been done and will now hope to bounce back in next week’s trip in Slovenia.

The Bulgarians imposed their game right rom the outset as their superior physical power dented Malta’s hopes of hurting the visitors with their swift attacking play.

In fact, for much of the opening 40 minutes it was the Bulgarians who enjoyed the majority of the possession with the Maltese players trying hard to keep them out of their own 22.

However, indiscipline hampered the home side as they conceded a penalty in the opening stages from which Smilko Debrenliev made no mistake to put the visitors 3-0 ahead.

The Bulgarians kept the upperhand and minutes later they had the opportunity to add three more points from another penalty but this time Debrenliev failed to hit the target.

Neill was forced to make his first change midway through the half when Dragan Cerketa was replaced by Karol Spiteri.

The match kept the same script with the Bulgarians still holding the edge with the Maltese rarely threatening when pushing forward.

In fact it was the Bulgarians who managed to add to their scoreline with another two perfect penalty conversions from Debrenliev to hand his team a comfortable 9-0 lead.

The home side were boosted four minutes from the break when the Bulgarians had Svetoslav Odadzhiyski sinbinned.

But the Maltese failed to make the most of the numerical advantage as it was the Bulgarians who scored the first try of the match through Ilia Dimitrov with Debrenliev making no mistake from the conversion to hand Bulgaria a commanding 16-0 lead at the break.

Malta had the chance to score their first try inside the first five minutes of the second half when they surged just two metres away from the Bulgaria goalline but a poor saw them lose possession and the chance was lost.

That proved costly as the Bulgarians all but sealed their win with a second try from Kristiyan Pavlov who surged through the Maltese defence to touch the ball home.

Debrenliev kept his composure to score the conversion and put his team 23-0 ahead.

Malta’s efforts were finally rewarded 15 minutes into the second half when substitute Liam Scicluna powered home for the home’s side’s first try. Chris Dudman scored the conversion to leve the Bulgarians 23-7 ahead.

Malta kept pushing and they did score a second try at the death through Jethro Zammit Endrich and was again converted by Dudman for a final 23-14 scoreline.

Malta: R. Apsee, T. Davey, D. Cerketa, M. Barbara, C. Sultana, D. Apsee, M. Davey, J.J. Micallef, T. Holloway, R. Holloway, D. Busuttil, C. Dudman, B. Dalton, J. Zammit Randic, P. Ioffe.

Bulgaria: D. Ivanov, K. Petkov, L. Traykov, D. Georgiev, I. Filipov, V. Mihov, V. Peychev, A. Tenev, V. Borisov, K. Pavlov, S. Odadzhiyski, S. Debrenliev, R. Attye, I. Dimitrov, K. Debrenliev.

Referee: Lukasz Jazinski (Poland).

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