Overseas reach Mediterrenean Cup final

Wednesday, March 28, 2012, 10:08
The winner of this clash was set to earn a place in the Cup final and face Stompers who are leading the table with 12 points and a game in hand.
Birkirkara’s progress seems to have reached a plateau however one expects a new bloom once the recently introduced youth players catch up the pace of senior rugby.
On the first attack, Ross du Toit sprints on the left and Birkirkara were only lucky to save the early try.  It was clear from the onset that Overseas were going for the whitewash and hammer at every ruck to secure possession.  This created extreme pressure on the Birkirkara defense which forced the less experienced to make some silly mistakes as was the kick by Mupimhidza that caught all his team mates offside, leading to some in extremis tackling.
Birkirkara suffered 2 early injuries and morale went down as brawny Luca Angelucci was seen limping to the subs bay so early in the game.  Overseas capitalised immediately and an overlap created by McRae, who was replacing Nick Wright at fly-half, gave the ball to Gibson to feed full-back Boland to score the opening try with ease.
Birkirkara looked disheartened and to make matters worse, Overseas showed no mercy when a missed tackle opened the way on the wing for Ross Du Toit to bolt along the touch line and dash over the try line.  It seemed that Birkirkara lost the whole plot when they lost their own line-out.  With just 9 minutes gone, the scoreboard showing 10 – 0 for Overseas, all those watching expected an easy push-over.  However Birkirkara players had other plans and decided to take matters in their hands.  Jack Salmon, who was playing his last game for Birkirkara and Jeremy Dela were present in every ruck with Claudio Bugeja, returning after missing several matches, proved valuable with his no fear approach.
Now Overseas were under some pressure as Richter van der Linden managed to regain possession for his team on a number of occasions and push the defense backwards.  This frustrated the Overseas team to the point that they gave away 4 penalties in so many minutes.  As soon as the action moved closer to opponents’ the try line and came within shooting range, Chris Briffa, who was playing despite injury, had an attempt at opening the score for Birkirkara.  Briffa missed by a whisker but this looked like a turning point as spirits went up and the underdogs started believing in their potential.  However, yet another silly mistake at the wing gave space for Vince Stivala to sprint for 40m and score another easy try.  15 – 0
After 18 minutres, Birkirkara started functioning properly and they were building waves of attack.  In no time at all they managed to get within 5 metres from the try line, with Roderick Borg failing to conclude by knocking the ball forwards.  Birkirkara were on fire and their over enthusiasm coupled with the lack of experience gave away two penalties in quick succession; one for pushing the scrum for more than 1.5m and then for diving in the ruck.  Birkirkara were dominating the territory, but Overseas showed their maturity by forcing their opponents to open space and prepare the way for a counter attack.
Incessant pressure made the Overseas play it rough but Birkirkara only gained a penalty for all their efforts.  Chris Briffa was succesful second time round to end the first half at 15 – 3.
The start of the second half was full of action, with Overseas trying to secure their place in the cup final and wipe off any chance for Birkirkara as early as possible.  David McDonald was yellow carded and this boosted Birkirkara’s hopes who came very close to score a try.  A quickly taken penalty caught Birkirkara line napping and McRae provided the ball to Tom Cole who side-stepped one defender to score his side’s fourth try.  Ross Du Toit secured 2 more points from the conversion.  Ross Du Toit was soon back on the scoreboard when he picked up a ball set loose by George Mupimhidza to score another try between the posts.  Ross Du Toit converted to take his personal tally to 14 points.  Score 29 – 3.
Similar to what happened in the first half, Birkirkara took 18 minutes to start firing on all cylinders.  Their coaches were seen giving instructions from the side line, with Carmelo Longo signaling more players in the ruck and Johann van der Linden pointing the entire back-line to stay wide.  This was a crusade on the Overseas defense line, with a dominance in both possession and territory.  Eventually their efforts were rewarded with a quick steal from the scrum by nippy Nicky Vella who side-stepped Colin McRae to dive over the try line.  Final score Overseas 29 – Birkirkara 8
It was an entertaining game in which Overseas used their experience to punish Birkirkara’s numerous silly mistakes.  From their end, Birkirkara were too slow to start in both halves, and they only did so after the damage had already been done.

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