Cents beaten in play-off semi-final
- Credit: Archant
St Albans Centurions quest for the East League title is over after a semi-final play-off loss to St Ives Roosters, the defending champions.
In their first year in the division following a switch from the London League, Cents finished third in the league to set up Saturday’s crunch match. And they managed to beat St Ives in their previous meeting. This time, however, an early onslaught of tries handed Roosters a lead that they would not relinquish, no matter how hard St Albans tried.
Coach Andy Lake said: “So near and yet so far. The bad thing is we lost this game in the first 15 minutes. The good thing was we did not roll over and give up; we fought back and won the second half, but it was not enough.”
Cents, missing seven first-team players, were 24 points down before Tom Sweeney scored in his first game of rugby league. Phil Shire then clawed back a further six points when he went over and Sweeney converted.
A lapse in concentration allowed St Ives to reply from the kick-off but from then on the Cents were in the ascendency. Simba Mupamhanga crashed over the line and five minutes later Josh Lawrence added his name to the scoresheet.
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Another lapse, this time when expecting the referee to blow his whistle for a knock-on, allowed Roosters a second easy try and then the hosts added a penalty to lead 38-20 at the break.
The second half began with St Ives scoring their last try of the game but then, once again, St Albans were the better team as they clawed back the deficit to try to earn a spot in the play-off final.
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Joe Shaw, Mick Hollister, Tim Rangihuna and Sweeney dived over in the second half to close the gap to 44-40. It could have been a comfortable win for St Albans if it hadn’t been for Roosters’ solid defence, which held up Shaw, Sweeney, Chris Davies and Shire.
As the game neared its conclusion, it took an ugly turn. Rangihuna was involved in an off-the-ball incident that required treatment and Davies, after being held up over the line, had to go to hospital with injuries around his eyes. Lawrence was punched in the face late on, sparking a mass confrontation that saw four red cards.
With 11 on 11 for the last 10 minutes, St Ives scored the only points, a two-point penalty, to book a place in the final.