Cents bounce back

Rugby League Conference Southern Premiership Ipswich Rhinos 28 St Albans Centurions 30 THE Centurions travelled to an unbeaten Ipswich Rhinos for an exciting game of rugby league on Saturday. Even at this early stage in the season head coach Shane Ramp

Rugby League Conference Southern Premiership

Ipswich Rhinos 28

St Albans Centurions 30

THE Centurions travelled to an unbeaten Ipswich Rhinos for an exciting game of rugby league on Saturday.

Even at this early stage in the season head coach Shane Rampling had marked this down as a must-win game for the Cents if they were to keep in touch with the top of the table after last week's loss to the West London Sharks.

Player unavailability left Rampling having to call on the services of five players from Wednesday's development team game, including two debutants from rugby union playing only their second competitive game of rugby league.

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However, alongside fellow debutant Matt Lee, they stood up well.

The weather also gave the players a tricky crosswind to contend with and in the end, the Cents better goal kicking in blustery conditions was the difference between the teams.

The Rhinos kicked off and their customary big forwards managed to contain the Cents in their own half. Although there was good defence from the forwards, including some impressive tackling from old hand Dave Roberson, successive errors put the Cents under constant pressure and eventually the Rhinos forced their way over for a converted try.

A tremendous kick from Adam Kal following the restart put the Rhinos on the back foot though and centre van de Merwe was unlucky not to score after he had sliced open the Rhinos' defence. Not long after, some good work by the forwards saw quick ball from Westhead, Kal and Dempsey put van de Merwe over for a try, which was converted well by Kal.

The powerful Rhinos forwards came storming back and despite some great defensive work from Messrs Dubes, Vassie and new boy Trafford they forced their way over for another try.

An error from the restart gave the Rhinos good position and a controversial call when a Rhinos player appeared to pass the ball from the ground after the tackle saw them extend their lead to 14-6.

The Cents lost van de Merwe to the sin bin for disputing the call.

There was a huge amount of commitment from both teams and the Cents lost new boy Trafford for the rest of the game after a huge hit from a Rhinos prop.

Rampling repaid the compliment shortly after with a shuddering hit on a Rhinos centre who also had to leave the field for treatment.

The Cents forwards began to get into the game and good movement from new boy Matt Lee at dummy half saw the Cents take control of the last 10 minutes of the half.

Building on this platform Kal and Rampling got the backs moving. A good break from Welsh in the centres was just stopped but a quick ball to the other wing saw Jacques Steynberg on a powerful run to score his seventh try of the season, which was converted by Rampling to make the half time score 14-12 to the Rhinos.

The second half started where the first finished off and after a thrilling run from returning full back Chris True down the right hand side, quick hands spread the ball wide to the left and gave the ball to Steynberg for the big winger to beat two men and charge 60 metres down the wing, only to be pulled down just short of the line.

Strong drives though gave space to Kal out on the left and he slipped over for a try which he then converted as the Cents took the lead for the first time, 14-18.

Injuries were causing disruptions to the Cents' defensive line and the Rhinos were able to capitalise with a converted try to make it 20-18. An error on the kick off with the ball going straight out and a couple of missed tackles by the Cents allowed the Rhinos in for a further try to make it 24-18.

From the restart a high tackle by the Cents was penalised but the Rhinos' full back was then sent off for stamping on a Cents player in retaliation.

Cents old boy Andy Wheldon, making his first appearance of the season, made a good hit up and some deft footwork by Welsh allowed a quick play the ball out to Steynberg who stormed in from 50 metres to make the score 24-22. By now Kal and Rampling were dominating the play and against the 12 men began to find gaps.

Good movement saw Steynberg take the ball in space and he easily brushed off two tacklers before running in his hat trick from 70 metres out to take the Cents back into the lead at 24-26. By now the Cents were struggling on the injury front but what appeared to be a speculative clearing kick from van de Merwe was superbly followed up by the chasing Cents team.

Under pressure, the Rhinos full back completely misjudged the bounce of the ball and van de Merwe picked up for an easy score to extend the Cents' lead. The Rhinos were not finished and a nail biting last five minutes saw good work from their halfbacks to put them over on the Cents right hand side.

In the blustery conditions the conversion to tie the game fell short. Straight from the restart though the Cents put themselves under pressure with successive penalties for high tackles but strong defence from True and Lee saw the ball fall into the hands of a grateful van de Merwe as the ref blew the whistle for full time.

New boy David Coyle, after a hesitant start, settled in well with some great hit ups and tackles to take the 'players player of the match' award and Cents scrum half Adam Kal was nominated as man of the match by a sporting Ipswich Rhinos team.

The contribution of old boys Roy Dube and Dave Roberson at props, in guiding the youngsters on the pitch deserves special mention.

Next week promises to be a great game which sees the visit of unbeaten top of the table team South London Storm to Cotlandswick.

Team: True, Petty, Welsh, van de Merwe, Steynberg, Rampling, Kal, Dube, Westhead, Roberson, Vassie, Coyle, Dempsey (Wheldon, Trafford, Fleuren, Lee).