A sun-bathed Melita FC with a First World War military hospital at one end and the Mediterranean Sea at the other was the scene as Malta opened the Rugby League European Federation European Championship C competition against Greece.
HE Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, President of Malta, met both teams before the match together with the mayor of Pembroke, Mr Dean Hili, and Melita FC President, Mr Paul Zammit. Greek ambassador to Malta, Mr Alexandros Rallis, also attended the match to support the Greek team. The Greeks, with 13 domestic players, took the lead early on through Nikolaos Kanellopolous thanks to an inside ball from Liam Sue-Tin after a Michael Korkidas break and off-load.
Alarm bells went ringing when it was a point per minute as Terry Constantinou crossed in the 12th minute and Malta coach Anthony Micallef was forced to make early changes. Michali Giorgas-Spanos made it 18-0 when he backed up Sue-Tin and Greece was dominating the early parts of the match on the back of a highly physical opening 20 minutes.
With the island’s Rugby League team renowned for coming from behind, the 300 pro-Maltese crowd came to life on the half-hour when Ed Willis completed a nice set of hands to cross in the left corner with Sam Keep converting from the sideline. They went into the half-time break with Greece up 18-6. The Maltese continued the fightback and it was a Stompers outside back again crossing for the points as Malcolm Attard sliced the Greek’s right edge defence twice to tie the match at 18-all. Central Queensland Capras prop Matthew Mizzi set the bar high from the opening minutes with a 80-minute workhorse performance for the Maltese. For the Greeks it was Pine Rivers hooker Liam Sue-Tin who was potent every time he touched the ball. Korkidas crashed over to score in the second half but incredibly, the referee said that he was held up over the try line.
Maltese econd rower Dragan Cerketa left the field in the 57th minute and soon after, the match was held up for 10 minutes after Greece’s Giogas-Spanos sustained a heavy concussion and was taken to hospital for precautionary measures. But it was Greek hooker Liam Sue-Tin, an enigma to the Maltese team for the entire match, who would send a pass to Niokolaos Bosmos to break the dead-lock with 15 minutes on the clock.
From a scrum win, Sue-Tin passed to Bosmos and the latter showed great speed to race 30 metres to score. Less than five minutes from time, Sue-Tin converted a penalty from right in front to give Greece an eight-point lead and it was Michael Korkidas who shattered the Maltese dreams when he took advantage of a handling error in the final 90 seconds and ran 60 metres to kill off any chance of a come-from-behind Malta victory.
Malta’s left edge of Attard and Willis were strong for the Maltese, together with strong showings from domestic championship players Dela, Attard, Cerketa and debutant Spiteri. A player with over a decade of experience across the NRL and Super League, prop and Greek captain Michael Korkidas, who led by example, said after the game “I won’t forget this win, it was one of the toughest games out there”. The most pleasing aspect for the Greeks was the way the local players stood up, tackling magnificently in what was a tough and physical encounter. “The Greek local boys have come a long way in such a short time of playing Rugby League,” said winning coach Matt Ashill.
1 Adam Bouris 2 Giorgin Syti 3 Ioannis Valassas 4 Nikolaos Kanellopoulos 5 Ioannis Nake 6 Nikolaos Bosmos 7 Michali Giorgas-Spanos 8 Stefanos Bastas 9 Liam Sue-Tin Kentrotis 10 Michael Korkidas 11 Terry Constantinou 12 Konstantinos Kotiadis 13 Mihali Chatziioannou Interchange 14 Emmanouil Katalaktakis 15 Ioannis Roussoglou 16 Pandeleimon Arfaras 17 Panagiotis Karefilis Coach: Matt Ashill