When our boys are forced to go, they can be relied on to go big. This they did at the wire in this year’s winter league.
A truly spectacular comeback in the play-offs after ending their round robin commitments in third place on ten points to San Ġiljan’s 13 and Sliema’s 12, enabled Neptunes to defeat the Saints 9-8 and then the Blues 5-4. These results ensured our 9th title in the pre-season competition.
That ‘big’ victory over the Blues in our last match, which replicated the previous one against the Saints, never mind the slender advantage, made certain that we would pip San Giljan on the strength of the direct encounters between the two teams as envisaged in the FINA competition bye-laws.
Dorian Pisani, from the bench, steered our ship astutely throughout the winter campaign and credit as our team’s mentor goes mainly to him. This triumph was also a welcome baptism of fire for new coach Zoran Mustur who seeks to continue where Sergey Markoch left off.
All the components of the team pulled the strings admirably. Inspired by captain Niki Lanzon and our other core players, Jordan Camilleri, Michele Stellini, Clint Mercieca and Timmy Agius, besides the reliable Alan Borg Cole in goal, our middle and low order players rose to the occasion to make it a bright epilogue to what we hope to be another successful year for Neptunes.
This they did in spite of what many contend to be a thin and inexperienced array of young tailenders and some shortcomings in the centre, a role which fell on the over-used shoulders of our inspirational captain.
Nevertheless, our main weapon was a well-marshalled rearguard that formed the basis for quick breaks exploited by clinical finishing. This game plan was largely evident in our crunch play-offs which brought frustration to our opponents time and again. Indeed, they were performances from the top drawer.
Well done boys for yet another ‘first’ when winning the winter title in a new play-off format.
Results of matches:
22 Feb. Neptunes 14 Exiles 1
01 Mar. Neptunes 10 Sirens 6
06 Mar. Neptunes 7 Sliema 9
27 Mar. Neptunes 7 S Ġiljan 7
31 Mar. Neptunes 10 Valletta 6
17 Apr. Neptunes 9 S Ġiljan 8
24 Apr. Neptunes 5 Sliema 4
Scorers: Niki Lanzon 22, Jordan Camilleri 12, Michele Stellini 10, Clint Mercieca 5, Timmy Agius 5, Sean Xerri de Caro 3, Benji Lanzon 2, Miguel Zammit 2, Luke Gialanze 1
Goals scored -62; Goals conceded – 41
All players who formed part of the squad at one time or another : Borg Cole Alan, Lanzon Niki, Lanzon Marc, Stellini Michele, Agius Timmy, Xerri De Caro Sean, Mizzi Gabriel, Camilleri jordan, Gialanze Luke, Zammit Miguel, Lanzon Benji, Muscat Brandon, Castillo Matthew, Mercieca Clint, Azzopardi Matthias, Cutajar Mikhael, Farrugia Nicholas