San Ġiljan confirmed their team-to-beat status when they kept their perfect record with a convincing win over Neptunes to clinch the Winter League with maximum points.
Critics and pundits consider San Ġiljan as the best waterpolo team in Malta and have been talking up their chances of winning a quadruple of trophies this year having already landed the curtain-raiser Enemed Cup.
The return of overseas players in our domestic league will surely have an impact on the respective team’s fortunes but San Ġiljan seem to be a cut above the rest.
It was San Ġiljan who drew first blood racing to 3-0 lead to suggest an upset for Neptunes may not be on the cards.
They took an early lead through Darren Zammit, who profited from deflection to poke the ball home. They made it 2-0 through Nikolai Zammit before Ben Plumpton made three-nil from eight metres out.
At this point, Dorian Pisani called a time-out to try and bring sanity into the Reds’ game. Sam Gialanzè converted the first five-metre throw before Jake Bajada found a gap to cut the leeway to 3-2.
In the second session, San Ġiljan extended their lead to 5-3 through two direct free-throws taken by Zammit and Andreas Galea before Jordan Camilleri reduced the gap through a conversion off Jake Tanti’s hands.
The lead kept widening for San Ġiljan with Plumpton being a constant threat and helped his colleagues in no small measure with his sharp-shooting as he made it 7-4 by the end of the third session.
A string of wasted opportunities by Neptunes meant frustration was the overriding emotion in a high-tension final session.
Tempers boiled over midway through the last quarter when Dean Bugeja was dismissed with subsitution for brutality, followed by Ryan Galea and Plumpton who both received straight red cards.
But by then, the dice had long been cast as further goals by Galea (2), Zammit (2) and Plumpton widened the gap for San Giljan.
In the end, San Giljan captain Matthew Zammit was presented with Winter League trophy by BOV Chief Executive John Agius.
Earlier on, Marsaskala produced a remarkably gritty display to turn the tables on Birżebbuġa and clinch the First Division’s Winter League.
Indeed, this was a victory that should give heart to Marsascala as some well-taken goals, especially from Gerald Sammut and Daniel Tully at crucial moments helped their cause.
After ourverturning a 3-1 early deficit, Marsascala led 4-3 by midpoint and 7-5 at the end of the third session. They cruised to an emphatic win despite the hard-working Keith Tanti tried hard to keep the game alive.
(2-2,1-2, 2-1, 2-1)
Valletta: B. Busuttil, J. Spiteri Staines, O. Zammit, J. Cassar 1, S. Busuttil, K. Borg 4, D. Paolella 1, J. Chircop, S. Micallef, A. Agius 1, M. Demarco, K. Cremona, A. Teuma.
Exiles: M. Castillo, Z. Cutajar Licari, M. Paris Roding, L. Gialanze, M. Martellacci, S. Xerri de Caro, M. Fenech, K. Griscti 4, N. Paris, D. Fenech, M. Aquilina 2, N. Saliba, F. Buhagiar, L. Pursehouse.
Refs: N. Mercieca, S. Licari.
(1-3, 2-1, 4-1, 5-2)
Marsaskala: J. Micallef, J.C. Cutajar 1, G. Galea 1, P. Privitera, R. Greco, J. Pace Mizzi, K. Navarro, D. Tully 3, D. Pace Lupi 3, G. Sammut 3, J. Ciantar, M. Carani 1, A. Muscat, E. Bilgrin, M. Agius.
Birżebbuġa: C. Borg, P. Borg, N. Cassar 1, B. Grech 1, K. Grech, R. Spiteri 1, D. Farrugia, K. Tanti 3, G. Mannino 1, M. Cassar, N. Chlach, J. Abdilla.
Refs R. Spiteri, R. Magri.
SAN ĠILJAN 12
(2-3, 1-2, 1-2, 2-5)
NEPTUNES: A. Borg Cole, D. Bugeja, S. Gialanze 3, G. Pace, L. Mallia, A. Fava, M. Castillo, J. Camilleri 1, R. Galea, J. Bajada 1, A. Fenech 1, B. Lewis, M. Farrugia.
SAN ĠILJAN: J. Tanti, N. Bugelli, A. Galea 3, B. Plumpton 3, R. Caruana, M. Zammit, G. Bonavia, J. Bonavia 1, J. Abela, N. Zammit 4, D. Zammit 1, N. Bonavia, G. Borg, N. Schiavone, K. Calleja.
Refs: M. Angilleri, P. Balzan.
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