Cents battling for a home play-off place

League leaders defeat Cents to leave Shane Rampling’s side battling to secure a home play-off berth

RLC Southern Premiership

St Albans Centurions 28

Hammersmith Hills Hoists 44

ST ALBANS Centurions played their last home game of the current season on Saturday when they came face to face with the league leaders, Hammersmith Hills Hoists.

The Southern Premiership is so tight at the moment that the results from this week’s penultimate set of games meant that all the teams in second to sixth position could qualify for a top four play-off berth. St Albans were without both their England internationals, Andy Lake who is out injured for the remainder of the season and Matt Stringer who has work commitments.

St Albans got off to a great start when after only five minutes player/coach Shane Rampling barged his way over the try line for the first score of the game, which David Kramer converted.

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Hammersmith are not top of the league for nothing, and they proved their capabilities when in a 10 minute spell they ran in three converted tries.

This see-saw of a game then went the other way when the St Albans forwards drove the ball 50 meters upfield and their ability to confine the Hoists in their own quarter paid off when a quick play the ball saw it shoot out wide to winger Oli Fountain who raced in to score in the corner and David Kramer again converted the try. Unfortunately Fountain aggravated an old injury and played only a small part in the remaining game. Within five minutes the St Albans team were dominating the game again and causing the London team to make mistakes.

Two penalties, one after the other, saw the Cents well in the visitors’ half and second rower Adam Kambouris hit the Hammersmith line at an angled run and crossed the line to score St Albans’ third try of the game. With Kramer kicking his third conversion, the score approaching half time was 18 points each.

With half time being so near, Cents seemed to take their eye off the ball, and from a penalty for crossing, Hoists hooker Taylor Sorrenson managed to jink through some lightweight Cents tackling and scored a converted try as the referee blew his whistle. The half time score was 18 - 24.

St Albans started the second half as they started the first, with some great rugby putting constant pressure on the visitors. Two penalties by Hoists saw St Albans camped in their quarter of the field, and a quick tap penalty by hooker George Stevens saw the ball sail through several pairs of hands to wide centre Rudi van der Merwe who could not be stopped as he went over in the corner for an unconverted try.

It looked like the see-saw was working in the second half as it did in the first, when Hammersmith coming right back at St Albans and their winger Bob Reisterer scoring a converted try. Cents big set of forwards came into their own as they forced the Hoist backwards. On the fifth tackle, St Albans mercurial hooker George Stevens faked a pass and from acting half, crashed his way over the line to score, David Kramer kicking the conversion.

There was now only 15 minutes left and the score was 28-30 to the visitors.

St Albans knew that a loss was no good to them but a win meant they would claim second place in the play-offs, so they began to throw the ball about and take chances.

Unfortunately, this produced a tiring string of players, gaps were opening and mistakes began to creep into their game. Hammersmith are a very good team and they punished the dropped balls and wayward passes by running in three tries, mostly against the run of play in the last 15 minutes of the game.

Cents player/coach Rampling said: “What a game, it was backwards and forwards all the time. Both teams knew they were playing for play off positions and they didn’t give or ask for any quarter. At the end, I’m not sure who had the most walking wounded, us or them. I’m really disappointed for the boys, 15 minutes to go and only two points in it, I though we had a chance, but on the day it wasn’t to be.”

Because of the other results in the league, St Albans now lie in third position, one point behind second placed Eastern Rhinos from Colchester. And that’s where they travel to this Saturday when the Cents take on the Rhinos in the last game of the regular season, knowing that they have to win to get the two points to take them to a second place berth, and a home tie in the semi-finals of the play offs.

If the Cents lose on Saturday, they will finish third in the league and have to play away in the play-offs against the Eastern Rhinos again.