It was a game where Malta promised a great spectacle when it first started but settled into mediocrity in the second half.
The final score was Malta 22 Cyprus 17 with Malta winning the first half 15 points to nil.
Chris Dudman(12) kicked his first points in four minutes, but Cyprus had shown their intent by kicking into the corner, only for Malta to steal their lineout ball and force their way downfield to win a penalty.
Dudman, Tom(9) & Rob(10) Holloway were using their boot to pin Cyprus back in their half with rolling kicks and box kicks.
Mark Davey(8) Daniel Apsee(11) and Martin Barabara(5) were carrying strongly and from a ruck near the tryline, Tom Holloway(9) darted around the corner to score out wide.
Cyprus were struggling in the lineouts, as Malta competed for their ball and Malta’s scrummaging was dominant over the bigger Cypriot pack.
Another sort downfield earned Malta a penalty near the Cypriot line, a quick tap penalty had Apsee(11) charging at the line like a bull, from the ruck Rob Holloway received the ball, stepped out, and in to score, making Dudman’s conversion much easier.
That 9-10 combination of the Holloway boys was creating problems for Cyprus.
At half time the score was:
Malta 15 Cyprus 0.
The second half had Cyprus adopting our tactics, using the wind to kick long and high balls to test our back three. Phillipe Ioffe(14) took a high ball confidently with the Cypriots charging at him.
We put ourselves under a bit of pressure with some loose passes and wrong options. From a lineout, Cyprus drove at the line and the recently substituted player Matthew Giorgiou(17) crashed over in a pile of bodies for his brother, cousin, and uncle, Dominic(12) to convert.
Malta 15, Cyprus 7.
A looped kick by Rob Holloway gave Malta good field position and a Cyprus knock-on, a scrum near their line. The forwards were now pushing Cyprus backwards winning penalties, but instead of kicking the goals to make the game safe went back to scrums again.
Finally, a dropped ball as Malta went down the short side allowed Cyprus to escape and we came away with nothing, from a dominant period inside their 22.
Play see-sawed a bit with the Cypriot speedsters beginning to gain confidence and breaking the defense, only to see a few thumping tackles by Jethro Zammit Randich(15) stem the tide.
Malta scored next after building several phases, play went left and into the 22. Rob Holloway grubbered a pinpoint ball between the defenders for it to pop up into the hands of Brendan Dalton(7) to score in the corner.
Dudman drilled it and Malta looked comfortable at 22 points to 7.
Cyprus brought on fresh legs and it spurred them into action, Kai Phillips(14) had an explosive run up the middle, only to be corralled and chopped down by Zammit Randich, Dalton, and Tom Holloway
Hayden Fayaz(11) scored out wide after several phases when Christian Giorgiou (10) with a long kick had put the men in Blue into an attacking position. With a missed conversion it was now:
Malta 22, Cyprus 12
Malta was working hard but was tiring, the engine room was still firing with Harry Perkins(4), Cameron Sultana(6), and the front row of Terrence Galdes(3) Thomas Davey(2) Karol Spiteri(1) dominant in the scrums. But we couldn’t finish Cyprus off.
We lost a line out with a crooked throw and Dudman missed a penalty that would have stretched Malta’s lead.
Just to make the last five minutes more exciting Cyprus scored with a second try to the rampaging Matthew Giorgiou(17) out wide, the conversion didn’t curl in with the wind.
It was Malta 22, Cyprus 17.
The game ended with Cyprus attacking but losing the ball near the line, to the hoots and hollers from a partisan Maltese crowd, who were happy to get the win in their new jerseys.
There was a fine crowd of past and present Rugby players, going way back to those first internationals in the early 2000s, Folio, Twanny, Joe Sultana, Cushi, The Bonavia brothers, Chris Martin, Cutajar, it was like walking down memory lane, a déjà vu experience.
It’s all smiles when you win, it was a time to celebrate new victories and old friends.
Referee: Ivan Zelic (Croatia)
Touch Judges: Mauro Micelli, Sean Doublesin.
Match Commissioner: Eliseo Patron-Costas.
Assistant Commissioner: Bryan Corlett
The Men of the Match: (Picked by the Commissioner):
Malta: Chris Dudman(12)
Cyprus: Kai Phillips(14)
The Cyprus players chose Brendan Dalton as Malta’s Man of the Match.
The Maltese players chose Kai Phillips as the Cypriot Man of the Match.
Write up: Bryan L. Corlett