Mikhailo Troyan’s last-action try – taking Oleksandr Skorbach’s fine cross kick – ensured that Ukraine remain undefeated at this level after seven matches, fending off a late Maltese challenge to win 34-22 in front of 500 fans at Marsa Sports Complex.
Troyan had been sin-binned just after the hour for a high tackle on Jake Attard and in his absence the galvanised Knights crossed twice, through Joseph Pio Mizzi and outstanding Nathan Falzon, to cut the deficit to eight points.
But as Troyan prepared to come back, and with the visitors out of substitutes in 31 degree heat, winger Anatolii Grankovskiy’s clearing run and Falzon being called back on an interception for being offside, saw the visitors hang on, before finally breathing easy with their sixth try on the final play.
“It was a difficult game, but our bench really helped us,” said Ukraine head coach Gennady Veprik. “Our experienced players, who were among our substitutes, really helped us get through.
“Greece will be an even harder game for us, even though it is to be played in Kharkiv, but we have time to prepare. This experience will do us good and, hopefully, we will play even better.”
Malta head coach, Sam Blyton-Keep commented: “I can’t criticise the guys, the heart, passion and commitment they showed was phenomenal and the final scoreline doesn’t reflect their effort. Every one of them gave their all and I couldn’t ask for more.
“Nathan and Malcolm were outstanding but I’m especially proud of the domestic boys, they’ve done all that could have been asked of them in the last three months and put everything on the line today. We can push on from here against Greece – we’ll give them a fair shot.”
Malta 22 : Tries: Falzon (11), J. Attard (54), Pio Mizzi (62), Falzon (68). Goals: Chircop 1/1, M. Attard 2/3.
Ukraine 34 : Tries: Semerenko (7, 56), Skorbach (29), Sviatoslav (37), Scherbina (44), Troyan (79); Goals: Mazepa 5/6; Sin bin: Troyan (60 – foul play).
Men of the Match: Malta, Nathan Falzon; Ukraine, Oleksandr Scherbin
Half time: 6-18; Referee: Radoslav Novakovic (Serbia)
European Championship C, South – remaining fixtures
15 Sep 2018 – Greece v Malta –Athens
08 Sep 2018 – Ukraine v Greece – Dinamo Stadium, Kharkov