Swieqi Overseas Rugby seal the Malta national title

Swieqi Overseas beat Sliema Stompers 21-12 to win the Cisk Lager League and were crowned champions of Malta for the second time in 3 years.

With both sides finishing level on points at the end of the regular season, they met in a playoff on an unseasonably damp afternoon in May. Overseas were looking to avenge their late defeat in the Medbank Cup the week before and took control of the match from the first whistle.  Playing into the wind, Overseas needed to keep ball in hand and some powerful running from forwards and back, along with some excellent ball retention, set the tone for the first 20 minutes.

The Overseas forwards, with Clayton Cassar and Guillaume Pijoan to the fore, carried strongly throughout and constantly broke the gainline. Stompers’ defence was creaking but managed to repel the early Overseas attacks and managing one quick breakout with a wind assisted kick. Overseas quickly regained the ball and their high tempo game started to make mismatches. Winger Daniel Gauci was narrowly held up before, after some excellent controlled rugby lock Andrew Schembri broke the line 10m out to score the opening try of the match under the posts, scrum half Vince Stivala converting.

The rain was making handling difficult though there were very few scrums in the opening period and upon fielding the kick off, Overseas were back on the front foot. Some more high tempo phase play brought them to within 5m of the tryline and captain Anthony Harvey powered his way through 3 tacklers to score Overseas’ second, with Stivala once again converting.

Overseas let this promising start slip away though, with the referee punishing them with a yellow card after 4 needless breakdown infringements in quick succession. Overseas were under pressure for the first time in the match and were holding out well before they were hit by a sucker punch. A clearance was held up in the wind and a momentary lapse of concentration let Stompers slip through for their first try and reduce the defecit to 7 points. Overseas were rocked and the 14 men were caught outwide for a second try, though the conversion was missed.

Some stern words beneath the posts ensured the defence went back to its usually high standards and the half finished 14-12 to Overseas.

Back to full strength and with the wind behind them, Overseas played a territorial game in the second half, made necessary by a heavy rain storm. Overseas pinned Stompers in their 22 for almost the entire period, with a combination of bad luck and difficult handling meaning a few tries which would have given Overseas a comfortable win were missed by a matter of inches.  When the ball was lost, some excellent turnovers by George Corner and Luke Galea ensured Stompers didn’t threaten.

It fell to scrum half Stivala to decide the contest 4 minutes from time, as a loose kick was fielded by fullback Brown and some quick hands by the midfield released Stivala on the halfway line. An exceptional turn of pace and change of direction in wet weather bamboozled 3 defenders in quick succession and he raced under the posts, converting his own try to make the score 21-12 and secure another Cisk Men’s Lager League title for Overseas Rugby.