Gozo score Independence Day win to open wide Maltese Championship

From Anthony Micallef

Gozo RL this afternoon registered the upset of the season as they crossed for an 11-try rout of their fancied opponents Malta Origin RL at Pembroke.

With Melita FC bathed in sunshine and a warm 27 degrees, the Gozo team arrived late to the venue but with a collection of players including German imports Nick Frick and Mark Zupan together with the Australians and former Birkirkara RL contingent of Tyson Freeman and Dylan Frendo.

It was a 14-week break over the summer for the MRL Dove Men+Care Championship and it told, a heap of missed tackles and simple errors showed up, but it wasn’t to take away from the challenge posed to both packs.

The red and whites of Malta Origin opened the scoring after only four minutes of play when Branton Bonello fended off Gozo’s Chris Tabone and crashed over for one of 19 tries over the course of the afternoon.

In a time slot usually reserved for the national team – Saturday afternoon Rugby League was the winner as both teams went try for try until 20-18 before Gozo put the pedal down.

Malta Origin RL were without a host of their representative players including Attard, George, Paolella and Urry but it was no excuse for some ordinary defence. Malta international Sam Keep stepped up to take the captaincy after Paolella’s late withdrawal but he never recovered from an early second half knock while scoring a four-pointer next to the posts.

The Rulli brothers played together on the same team for the first time, the elder – Christopher, crossed for three strong efforts and gave the favourites any chance they had.

After newcomers Birkirkara RL notified the MRL of their withdrawal from the championship following internal matters at the club, the result sets up a mouthwatering dual between today’s same combatants on October 12 for the right to progress to the MRL Championship Final against Sliema RL.

Gozo’s German stars, Frick and Zupan, combined for an eight-try haul, add to that Dylan Frendo (pictured) who was near perfect with the boot knocking over eight from 10 attempts and crossing for two of his own tries, a 24-point man of the match performance.

Gozo skipper Clifford Debattista couldn’t wipe the smile from his face as the victory put his team within one win of an appearance in the Maltese Championship Final on October 19.

“I’m really proud of the boys for all their hard work in training on the pitch and off the pitch. This score wasn’t luck, we got this score because we worked as a team”

“To be honest, although we are struggling with numbers at the moment we still managed to get a very good team out there but a big thanks has to go to our two German guest players, Mark and Nick. They gave a big contribution to the team in this game as did also Dylan and Tyson”

“Thanks to all the Gozitan players that make the sacrifice week in week out and came to the game and showed what we have been doing”

A win for Gozo in the last round of the Championship will be enough while a draw or better for Malta Origin RL will see them through to the Championship Final.

Malta Origin RL will also welcome their British prop in the coming weeks, former Gateshead Thunder prop Gareth Barron, as the local championship goes down to the final match of season.

Gozo RL 66 (M.Zupan 5, N.Frick 3, D.Frendo 2, C.Debattista, J.Mizzi tries; D.Frendo 9 from 11, M.Zupan 0 from 1 goals)
Malta Origin RL 36 (C.Rulli 3, A.Patamia 2, B.Bonello, S.Keep tries; S.Keep 2 from 4, M.Booth 2 from 3 goals)
H-T: Gozo RL 34-26
Ref: Mr A.Micallef
Players of the Match: Christopher Rulli (Malta Origin) and Dylan Frendo (Gozo)

2013 MRL Dove Men+Care Championship Standings (after round 4)

Sliema RL – 6pts**, 3 wins, +92
Malta Origin RL – 4pts, 2 wins, 2 losses, -50
Birkirkara RL – 2pts*, 1 win, 2 losses, -4
Gozo RL – 2pts, 1 win, 3 losses, -38
* Birkirkara RL withdrawn from MRL Championship
** Qualified for MRL Championship Final

2013 Top Tryscorers (after 4 rounds)

D.Farrugia (Malta Origin RL/Gozo RL) – 7
D.Cerketa (Sliema RL) – 5
K.Zammit (Sliema RL) – 5
M.Zupan (Gozo RL) – 5

2013 Top Pointscorers (after 4 rounds)

D.Farrugia (Malta Origin RL/Gozo RL) – 44pts, 7 tries, 8 goals
D.Frendo (Gozo RL/Birkirkara RL) – 30pts, 2 tries, 11 goals
O.Jones (Sliema RL) – 30pts, 1 try, 13 goals

Image by Matthew Scerri: Malta international Dylan Frendo scoots away for his second try of the afternoon.

Daniel Andruczyk’s email: daniel@rugbyleagueinternationalscores.com
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