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Match report: Malta overcome Hungary to book cup final berth

Luke Jobson
Journalist
Rugby League Around the Grounds

Malta booked their place in Saturday’s ENWC cup final against Niue, defeating Hungary 20-10 in Wednesday’s semi final at Cabramatta.

Malta were looking to get back into the winners’ circle at New Era Stadium after a loss against Niue in their final pool match, while Hungary were seeking three consecutive wins in the tournament. Both teams rung the changes to their line-ups, and Malta reaped the benefits immediately to start the game.

Malta scored from the kick-off, running up field to reach a good position on the last tackle. Adam Campbell put a bomb up from 30 metres out, and Tyler Cassel leaped highest to grab it and score on the left edge. Goalkicker Nathan Benson missed his first attempt to leave Malta leading 4-0 after just three minutes.

Malta got a penalty on the first tackle off the kick off, and took full advantage to score again. Off the back of a quick play-the-ball, Jake Attard sent Kyal Greene over from close range to stun Hungary yet again.

Benson would make no mistake this time, bringing the score to 10-0 after six minutes.

The game then went into a holding pattern, with both teams conceding multiple errors and penalties. Hungary had a few opportunities deep in the attacking half, but the Maltese defense held solid time after time.

The hard slog continued for Hungary, with their right edge having several opportunities to score. An inability to do so dulled their confidence, and Malta took advantage with Adam Campbell using the work of his forwards to get close to the line and darting from dummy half to score next to the posts.

Benson landed his second conversion to send the score to 16-0 for Malta just before half time.

Hungary had a chance to get on the board right before the break, but errors cost the Hungarians their opportunity, and Malta retained their 16-0 lead.

Hungary came out firing in the second half, with multiple sets in a row as well as fantastic field position creating chances to score early,  but Malta would yet again hold them out on the right edge.

Kyle Cassell burst through a gaping hole to run 50 metres up field, nearly setting up a quick play-the-ball to allow some free-flowing play on the right edge. Hungary conceded a penalty, but then forced the error to be let off the hook with a good hit close to the line.

Hungary had another dig at the line through hooker Stuart Flanagan, but had the ball stripped over the line by Tyler Cassell to be denied yet again.

Hungary ended up with a man advantage though, as Kyal Greene was sent to the bin for dissent.

Hungary thought that they had got points on the board with some slick hands down the left edge, but the touch judge ruled the left foot of Nathan Farkas had brushed the sideline as he cut in to touch the ball down.

Malta’s Jono Dallas made a try-saving tackle on Jayson Gerecs, but Hungary finally got over on 66 minutes through Brent Varga on the right edge. The conversion from David Farkas missed to leave the score at 16-4 with ten minutes to go.

Both teams had chance after chance to score, but it was Kyle Cassell burst through and give Tyler Cassell a chance to score. Hungary came back to drag Cassell down, but Josh Cregan got the ball on the left wing to seal the game for the Knights.

Benson missed the conversion, but Malta were comfortably ahead, 20-4.

Hungary scored a consolation try through Paul Ivan on full-time, but Malta had sealed the win to progress to the cup final against Niue. Hungary will play Greece in the third place play-off on Saturday.

Malta: 20
Tries – Tyler Cassel, Kyal Greene, Adam Campbell, Josh Cregan
Goals – Nathan Benson (2)

Hungary: 10
Tries – Brent Varga, Paul Ivan
Goals – David Farkas