Cents can't weather the Storm

RL Conf. Southern Premiership St Albans Centurions 20 South London Storm 48 Don t let the scoreline fool you. That was the message from St Albans coach Shane Rampling in a game that was much closer than the scoreline suggests. The Centurions welcomed

RL Conf. Southern Premiership

St Albans Centurions 20 South London Storm 48

"Don't let the scoreline fool you."

That was the message from St Albans coach Shane Rampling in a game that was much closer than the scoreline suggests.

The Centurions welcomed the top of the table and unbeaten South London Storm to Cotlandswick on Saturday. One of the strongest teams in the country at this level in recent years, the Storm provided a stern test of the Centurions push for honours, particularly with the absence for the Cents of five first team squad members due to unavailability and injury.

The Storm kicked off on a hot and sunny day and for the first time this season, the Centurions were fired up and ready to go.

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Powerful running from captain Paul Maloney, youngster Joe Vassie and stalwart Roy Dube, who had a tremendous game, helped to establish a solid platform for the Centurions halfbacks. A good ball from Rampling allowed the improving Brett Welsh to show some deft footwork and he just failed to spot the supporting Rampling with only the full back to beat.

Cents maintained the pressure though and good handling from Adam Kal, Welsh and Rudi van de Merwe allowed debutant James Larman to outpace the covering defence for a touchline score, which was superbly converted by Kal.

Unfortunately, the inconsistency that has plagued the Cents to date raised its head again and successive silly errors and penalties allowed the Storm in for two tries and a conversion to make the score 6-10.

The Cents responded well though. A big hit on Jamie Malloy left the youngster dazed, but he recovered and along with Miles Dempsey and Lewis Padmore, making his first appearance of the season, put in some huge hits which rattled the Storm. A strong hit up and off-load by Mike Holister to Brant Allen allowed the reliable centre to show good hands and debutant winger, Andy John, went in at the corner. Unfortunately the touchline conversion by Kal just bounced back off the crossbar.

The Storm were not to be outdone and their kicking game put their reliable full back Chris True under pressure. Eventually the Cents conceded a penalty near their own line from which the Storm scored. Another mistake just after the restart with a mis-tackle allowed the Storm to go over for an easy converted try to make the half time score 10-20.

The Cents appeared to get off to the perfect start in the second half when a Storm player was taken into touch. Unfortunately the referee ruled that he had been dragged over after the tackle was made, although his decision to consult the opposition on the call was somewhat unorthodox.

The Storm then showed why they have the best attacking and defensive record in the league this season.

During a purple patch they scored 22 unanswered points as their halfbacks dominated the game. The Cents though, were not finished and they came back strong in the final 15 minutes.

Good running from Paul Maloney, David Coyle and Roy Dube put the Storm under pressure near their own line. Good movement on the left saw what appeared to be Welsh ground the ball to the cheers of the spectators. However, the referee saw it differently and didn't award the try. Cents maintained the pressure though and John went over for his second try of the match.

Another lapse and poor tackling from the restart allowed the Storm in for a soft try but the Cents rounded the game off with a try from Rampling who showed great strength near the line. Brett Welsh converted to make the final score Cents 20 to Storm 48.

Commenting after the game Cents' head coach Rampling was bitterly disappointed and felt that the game was a lot closer than the final score suggested. "For the first 20 minutes and the last 15 we matched and even out played the Storm," he said.

"However, we made too many mistakes and against a team of this quality they are always going to punish you."

On a more positive note, Rampling feels that there is a lot of improvement to come from the team. The absence of key players and a lack of continuity in selection has hampered the performances to date, but they have also allowed new players a chance to shine and there were tremendous performances from debutants James Larman and Andy John, who took the Players' Player of the Match award.

The enthusiasm of the squad was also highlighted by three boys on the bench, Alan Petty, Sam Brinkston and Dave Hancock, who had already played a full 80 minutes in the preceding development game and stayed on to bolster the Cents squad. Adam Kal, again took the opposition award for Man of the Match.

Next week sees a change from the published fixture list with a request from Elmbridge Eagles to swap their home and away fixtures with the Cents. So next week Cents will be playing at home with the visit of Elmbridge Eagles to Cotlandswick as Cents aim to get the season back on track.

Centurions: True, John, Allen, Van Der Merwe, Larman, Rampling, Kal, Dube, Westhead, Vassie, Welsh, Hollister, Maloney. Subs: Padmore, Dempsey, Coyle, Molloy, Brinston, Petty, Hancock.