Cents edged out in the final

Southern Premiership Rugby League Grand Final

St Albans Centurions 10

Hammersmith Hoists 12

IT was a case of so close yet so far for St Albans Centurions as their season was ended by a narrow two-point defeat to Hammersmith Hoists in the Southern Premiership Rugby League Grand Final.

A crowd of three hundred plus people had gathered to watch this match, as the top two teams in the league had made it through to this game. Hammersmith, made up predominantly of Australians now living in London, had finished top and St Albans second. It was also the last game that Centurions rampaging loose forward Adam Kambouris and ever reliable full-back David Kramer would be playing in St Albans colours before they return home to Australia later this month.

The game kicked off and for the first 15 minutes it was expansive, end-to-end rugby, as both teams tried each other out in defence and attack and gave nothing away. It was an extremely physical, but not a dirty game, with both sides trying to impose their presence on the other team. In one of their attacks, the Hammersmith team found a chink in the Cents defensive line and their centre, James Sharp just managed to wiggle through a gap and score the touchdown, with Wade Kelly converting.

The last 20 minutes on the first half was none stop crash bang rugby as neither team took a backwards step. In this period, St Albans crossed the Hammersmith try line twice, and scored what seemed to the crowd to be perfectly good tries, but for some reason known only to the referee, both were disallowed.

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It was very gratifying to see that despite this being the top game of their season, in true rugby league fashion, the Centurions accepted the referee’s decisions without any of the remonstrations so often seen in other sports. It was a battered and bruised group of rugby players that went in at half time with the scores 6-0 in Hammersmith’s favour.

The second half kicked off and within five minutes Hammersmith increased their lead when second rower Brenton Winnell broke through the Cents’ defensive line to score under the posts, which was again converted.

This meant that St Albans were 12-0 down, but they wouldn’t allow their heads to drop. In fact St Albans began to play some great rugby and were keeping the opposition in their own half of the field for long periods of time.

It was during this period that Cents crossed the line twice more, only to have the referee again disallow both tries. Unfortunately, Cents’ Oli Fountain questioned the referee’s call on the fourth occasion and was duly sent to the sin bin for 10 minutes for his protests.

With 20 minutes left on the clock the Cents deservedly got a try that the referee liked, when Centurions’ scrum-half Mick Wade kicked over the Londoners’ defence, and Fountain, just back on the field, won the chase for the ball and crashed over the line to score. Full-back Kramer kicked the conversion.

Hammersmith were beginning to tire under the constant pressure St Albans were putting them under, and with 10 minutes left on the clock Cents’ centre Rudi van der Merwe danced through several tackles on the touchline before cutting inside to beat a further three players and score a great try.

This made the score 10-12, and the game could be tied if Kramer could kick the conversion. Unfortunately his kick hit the upright and bounced back onto the field amid cheers from the Hammersmith supporters and groans from the Cents fans.

Time and time again St Albans pounded the Hammersmith line but could just not cross it. At the final whistle it was Hammersmith that took the trophy in what had turned out to be a low scoring but highly entertaining and exciting Grand Final.

After the match, Cents player/coach Shane Rampling said: “I’m sure that was an exciting match to watch, but it was a hard game to play in, neither team backed down and the strength and stamina on show proved once again what a great sport Rugby League is.

“Our players crossed the line six times today, and only two tries were given, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. You have to suck it up and get on with it.

“I’d also like to say a big thank you, not only to today’s players, who played brilliantly, but to all the players who made up our playing squad for the whole of this season.

“The team also send a big ‘thank you’ to the Cents supporters and the people who run and help out at the club. We will be back next year.”

Cents: Kramer, Waters, Fountain, van der Merwe, N. Woolley, J. Woolley, S. Rampling, Wade, Dube, Day, Kay, Shaw, Kambouris, Lake, Hollister, Clelow, D. Rampling.

* Cents must now wait until October to find out which league they will be playing in next season.

That is when the Rugby Football League are announcing a major restructuring of the rugby leagues up and down the country, when almost all amateur teams throughout the United Kingdom are being incorporated into a pyramid structure like the one used by the Football Association and other sports.

It is expected that the Cents will be in a fairly high league, and their season will cover eight months of the year.