by Alex Vella
Neptunes kept up their winning trail after four winter league outings. They dismissed the ASA Under 18 selection 18-6 in what turned out to be a casual training spin, after which they came up against much stiffer customers, Sliema, this being the first clash of the year between these traditional rivals.
Their 9-7 victory margin came on the back of a solid kick-start which saw Tony Camilleri’s team build a 4-0 early advantage, maintained at 5-1 and 6-2 before we folded slightly to be almost caught up.
The boys had started almost like a train, snapping up chances and limiting the Blues to speculative distant shots which were often off the mark. Double-shielding on John Soler in the centre and quick shifting to press gave the team a good tactical base, which resulted in a comfortable lead. However, a slice of complacency and Sliema’s resolve to fight back provided our opponents with a salvo. The Blues, in fact, managed to clip the deficit to 6-5 after we tossed away a penalty on that 6-2 scoreline.
It was here that our resilience again surfaced. After Soler had scored his only goal to make it 7-6 at the beginning of the last session following captain Niki Lanzon’s conversion for a 7-5 score late in the third quarter, Jordan Camilleri showed what a fine player he is when netting twice within 70 seconds for a 9-6 advantage. That was a breather for the lads, even if there were over 5 minutes left. However, by this time the Blues were back at the deep end of the pool as they once more betrayed signs of rustiness on the point of execution, never mind the late definite dismissal of Nikolai Lubrano and Mark Meli, which complemented that of Sean Gravina.
It had been quite an intriguing encounter, although not quite generating the usual cauldron of emotion between these two teams given the low-profile of the competition.
Tony Camilleri appears to be leading his team to top position at the end of the round robin phase. But then it’s back to square one as the first four-placed teams battle it out for the winter title in the play-offs.
Sliema 7 – Neptunes 9
(0-2, 1-3, 4-2, 2-2)
Sliema: R. Coleiro, N. Bugelli, N. Lubrano, P. Privitera 1, M. Meli 1, J. Soler 1, D. Paolella, J. Brownrigg 2, C. Debono, M. Fenech, M. Rizzo 2, E. Meli, Z. Sciberras, M. Agius, N. Portelli.
Neptunes: I. Bugeja, N. Lanzon 2, E. Aquilina, M. Stellini 2, Z. Mizzi, G. Pace, J. Camilleri 3, S. Scerri de Caro, B. Lanzon, S. Gravina, T. Agius 1, K. Debattista, C. Mercieca 1, R. Scior-tino, L. Ellul.
Refs: M. Dalli, M. Angilleri.