Daniel Spiteri has sent the pro Maltese crowd into raptures at the Fairfax Community Stadium in Sydney overnight with a piercing try in the final 30 seconds of play to give Malta a 24-22 victory over Greece.
The Greeks, plagued by injuries, came from 16-0 down at the break to take the lead 22-20 with 17 minutes remaining.
But as it looked like Greece would hold on, Newcastle Knights� Daniel Spiteri; playing in the centres, showed his deceiving and evasive skills in breaking the line and sprinting 40 metres down the right flank to score in the corner for a memorable victory to Malta. Spiteri dummied to Micallef outside him before diving over and joining supporters in massive celebrations for the Maltese before Greek players were left to rue what almost was, in the in goals.
While Spiteri was the star for the Malta Knights, Greek captain Michael Korkidas was the standout performer on the field and showed his class by playing the full 80 minutes. His hit-ups and defence caused havoc for Malta who decided to play the game on the edge of the fringes.
�Captaining Greece tonight was one of the highlights of my life. I only met the guys a few days ago but they�re a great bunch of blokes. We have a good thing going and everybody is looking forward to playing in Greece next year� said Korkidas.
While Malta had no changes to the 17-man squad announced a couple of weeks ago, Greece lost the services of George Gatis, Willie Peters, Jason Demetriou, Andrew Georgiadis, Michael Yatras, Jude Wheeler and Mark Mundine through injury or personal issues.
Wakefield captain Jason Demetriou attended the game and spent time in the Greek dressing room however Malta had the services of an emotion charged Adam Vella to make a honourable jersey presentation to the Maltese players in the dressing rooms prior to kick off. Vella last week became the IBO Pan Asia Pacific Middleweight Boxing Champion.
Malta opened the scoring when debutant Luke Branighan popped a grubber through for a racing Willie Grech to ground the ball just before the line for a 4-0 lead with Ben Sammut adding the extras.
Early exchanges between both sides were bumpy and two scuffles saw Malta�s Daniel Spiteri on the receiving end of the sin-bin as referee Jeff Younis awarded penalty after penalty.
Nineteen-year-old Simon Micallef pushed the margin out to sixteen points when he dived over twice in the final 5 minutes of the first half, which would see Malta take a 16-0 lead into the break.
The Greeks came out firing in the second half with tries from Ray Mavroudis, York Antoniou and David Georgiou bring the scoreline to 16-all.
Malta winger Simon Micallef, who plays for the Parramatta Jersey Flegg side, registered his third try of the game when he scored in the 59th minute after the Knights spread the ball wide again.
Adam Fletcher levelled the scores at 20-all when he crossed in the 63rd minute and Stuart Philpott added the extras to put Greece ahead for the first time in the game. But it was left to Spiteri to shatter the dreams of the Greeks.
The Maltese and Greek communities of Sydney were instrumental in doing the deeds in helping international rugby league.
Following overnight celebrations, Malta will regroup and board for Malta on Thursday where they will join two Maltese based players in preparing for their October 22 fixture against the England Lionhearts at Marsa Stadium.
Malta 24 (Simon Micallef 3, Daniel Spiteri, Willie Grech tries; Ben Sammut 2 from 5 goals) Greece 22 (Ray Mavroudis, York Antoniou, David Georgiou, Adam Flecher tries; Stuart Philpott 3 from 4 goals) at Fairfax Community Stadium, Sydney. Referee: Jeff Younis. Crowd: 1500 H-T Malta 16-0
For more information, visit www.malteserugbyleague.com www.greekrugbyleague.com