P. Bartlett (5, 58), Sammut (12, 39, 67, 79), Gilmour (30, 51, 53), Criminale (43), Pavanello(74)
Mellor (20, 27), Meldalend (26, 34), Elgheim (37)
EUROPEAN SHIELD GAME 3
Malta fell agonisingly short of pulling off a remarkable European Shield title win on Friday evening, despite beating a gallant Norway by 64-24. The home side needed just five more points – a converted try – to overhaul Germany’s points differential, but time was against them. The Germans, who claim their first silverware in their fifth official international tournament, can thank a courageous first half effort from the visiting Vikingene, who came from behind twice to lead and entered the sheds tied up at 24-all.
For all of Norway’s stubbornness, Malta had the artistry and cutting edge of Crusaders scrum-half Jarrod Sammut on which to rely. The Bradford-bound superstar, outplayed by his German opposite Jimmy Keinhorst in Germany, scored four tries and ten goals for a personal haul of 36-points, tying Ukraine’s Alexander Skorbach’s competition record, set in last year’s Shield.
“It’s always an honour to represent Malta and play with such a great bunch of guys," said Sammut. "It was really hot for all of us today, really difficult conditions, but we put in a really strong team effort. Viva Malta!”
The Knights knew they had to win by a margin of 45 to snatch the competition from Germany’s grasp. Norway knew they just had to draw to claim their first silverware. The first half clearly illustrated that there was a lot to play for as Malta’s early 12-0 lead was gobbled up by three Norwegian tries in seven minutes, two from burly centre Erik Sonny Mellor. Both teams then traded tries directly from scrums following knock-ons from the kick off, and then Norwegian fullback Kristian Elgheim benefitted from a regathered chip and offload to give Norway a 24-18 lead. Sammut scored his second after great lead up work from Paul Borg to make it all square at the break.
The second half saw Malta cut loose as the intense 30-plus degree heat took its toll on the Norsemen. Joey Criminale’s 80-metre sprint gave Malta their match-winning lead on 43 minutes, but there was still the mad dash for the title to be run. Three tries in eight minutes – two from Gilmour before another piece of Sammut brilliance unlocked the Norway defence – gave the Knights hope. With over 20 minutes remaining they needed 23-points.
But Norway dug deep to prevent any more scoring for ten minutes, and only a fumble from a Norway scrum feed allowed the mercurial Sammut to scoop up the ball and score on 67 minutes. Sammut then fired a bullet pass for rookie Gozetan wing Jurgen Pavanello to touch down, but two scores in the final five minutes proved one too many, with Sammut bringing the scoring to a close a minute before time.
Mellor, Norway’s best on the day, was upbeat despite the second-half rearguard action: “We did really well in the first half, but the heat shut us down in the second half. It was a still a great effort from our guys, and we will be stronger next year.”
S. Bartlett, J. Criminale, G. Hili, P. Bartlett, C. Briffa, J. Sammut, M. Attard, P. Borg, J. Barlogio, C. Parker, C. Debattista, G. Attard, S. Gilmour. Subs: D. Grima, J. Pavanello, J. Howland, M. Camilleri
K. Elgheim, F. Skovely, S. Mellor, T. Vindahl, W. Heilig, P. Engeland, K. Milligan, I. Schmidt, N. Haigh, C. Leslie, E. Meldalen, N. Palmer, J. Hornby. Subs: T. Hilton. J. Jaxland, L. Haigh. M. Havkland