Cents finish runners up to secure home play-off spot

Shane Rampling’s side triumph at Eastern Rhinos to finish second

RLC Southern Premiership

Eastern Rhinos 14

St Albans Centurions 24

There could not have been more to play for on Saturday as St Albans Centurions travelled to Colchester to play the Eastern Rhinos.

On the last regular league game of the season, Eastern Rhinos were in second position in the league, with St Albans Centurions third, only one point behind. Both teams knew that a win would guarantee them the runners-up place in the Southern Premiership, and also give them the important home advantage as the first and second placed teams play the third and fourth placed sides in the play-off semi-finals next week end.

In what has become a part of their game this season, the Cents got off to a slow start, and after nine minutes the Cents were penalised twice in a row for holding down in the tackle, and this put the Colchester team inside the St Albans 20 metre line. From the tap penalty, the Rhinos passed the ball down the line very quickly and a back tracking Cents defence could not keep them from crossing the try line when winger Alex Gardener went in at the corner for an unconverted try.

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It was almost a case of d�j� vu when 10 minutes after the restart it was the Rhinos turn to be penalised twice on the trot, giving Cents the attacking advantage in their 20 metre area.

This time it was the Cents’ turn to play a quick ball and some great quick passing and running saw St Albans winger Gareth Waters go in at the corner. David Kramer’s conversion attempt just went wide. The Centurions began to put the pressure on the Colchester outfit, and this paid off when on the half hour mark the Rhinos gave away a penalty for offside and from the tap the ball was passed out to loose forward Adam Kambouris who proved unstoppable as he crashed over the home team’s line to score a try. Kramer, pictured below, appeared to have left his kicking boots at home as he also missed this conversion.

Unfortunately for Cents, within minutes of the referee’s half time whistle they were caught flat footed as a Rhinos attack, which was being contained, caught them out as Rhinos half back Pete Le Marquand kicked downfield early in the tackle count and the Cents, with no cover defence, lost the ball chase to Eastern half back Ed Holland who collected the ball and took it over the line to score. The kick was converted on the referee’s half time whistle by Le Marquand, and with 40 minutes gone, the home team were leading the St Albans boys 10-8.

With no wind and in the blazing sun the second half started slowly, both teams playing steady rugby, knowing that a mistake could let the other team into the game.

As the game progressed, it was the Cents who, with nothing to lose and all to gain, began to put the pressure on, playing some great flowing rugby. In one of their attacks, the ball came to Cents scrum half Mike Wade who side stepped his way through the Rhinos defence and crossed the try line. This time Kramer did not miss and kicked the conversion.

The Centurions’ try woke the home side up and within two minutes they had scored a converted try when some St Albans indiscipline allowed them some easy yardage and access to the scoreboard.

With only 15 minutes left the score was 14 points each, and it seemed the game might end in a draw as the Eastern Rhinos defended for all they were worth.

From what seemed a fairly safe distance out, Cents full-back Kramer caught the ball and ran at the Rhinos.He jinked and side stepped his way through several tackles and went in for a try in the corner.

He then put the icing on the cake by kicking the conversion from only one yard in from the touchline.

With only five minutes left, the ever reliable Centurions forwards took the ball up field 50 metres in three good drives, and on the fourth drive St Albans prop forward Martin Day powered his way through the Rhinos line and scored. The conversion was unsuccessful, but the final whistle went shortly afterwards, giving the Centurions the victory of 24-14, and the all important second place.

After the game Cents player-coach Shane Rampling said: “For 60 minutes, that game could have gone either way. The Rhinos are a very good, strong side. We showed that in the last 20, we wanted it more than they did, and did the boys dig deep. I am so proud of them today. As the game progressed, we got a few walking wounded in the squad, but they all wanted to be out there on the pitch, to win for the club. They are a great bunch of players.”

Next Saturday sees a whole day of Rugby League at the Cents Toulmin Drive ground. The Cents are holding a Mini Rugby League Festival for U7s, U9s and U11s, which starts at 1pm, followed at 2.30pm by the play-off semi-finals when St Albans Centurions (second) play the Eastern Rhinos (third). Whoever wins that game will face the winners of the other semi-final where Hammersmith take on West London Sharks.

Cents: Kramer, Waters, van der Merwe, Stringer, Woolley, S Rampling, Wade, Dube, Strevens, Day, Shaw, Hollister, Kambouris, Blinkhorn, Lake, D Rampling, Drummond, Norris, Sherwood-Pearce, Cawlow.