Delight for Centurions as frantic cup success ends long wait for silverware
- Credit: Archant
St Albans Centurions grabbed their first piece of silverware in nine years thanks to a furious finish in the East League Cup final.
The Cents were trailing 28-20 with five minutes to go against Brentwood Eels and seemingly done and dusted.
But with the Essex side playing a man short following a piece of dissent, Kristian Naylor barged through a gap to reduce the gap to four.
And just two minutes later Steve Bucknall produced a towering up and under that was claimed perfectly by the leaping Conor Moore for the equalising try.
Dominic Hearne remained calm enough to land the conversion and give Cents the lead and despite one last charge by the Eels, the St Albans hung on for the victory.
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Player-coach Simba Mupamhanga said: "I knew very early on that we had something special coming together this year.
"Even when we've been depleted by injuries, everyone in the squad who's pulled on the shirt has been committed to the cause.
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"The atmosphere among the boys was electric and they thoroughly deserved to get their hands on some silverware."
The contest had looked anything but nail-biting after St Albans stormed into a 10-0 lead within the first five minutes.
On their very first attack man of the match Naylor bulldozed over in typical fashion and three minutes later Bucknall brushed aside two tacklers following some sublime play to bag a second.
Will Curtis slotted the kick but from then the Eels began to battle.
They pulled two back, with Scott Clewlow scoring in between for the Cents and Curtis kicking a second conversion, and added would finish the half with four tries, three of them converted, and a 22-16 lead.
Two minutes after the restart Josh Lawrence had closed the gap to just two points with a trademark try from close-in but five minutes after that, Brentwood's speedy youngsters added yet another converted try to put one hand on the cup.
At this point St Albans knew they had to up their game and they laid siege to the Eels' try line only to see wave after wave of attack repelled.
Kieran O'Shea had a try ruled out for a knock-on and both Godson Sadu and Alastair Luftig were pushed back into play after seemingly crossing the line.
But their persistence paid off in the dramatic finish.