Cents halt Rhinos
RLC Southern Premiership St Albans Centurions 16 Ipswich Rhinos 10 A BIG and physical Ipswich Rhinos were the visitors to Cotlandswick on Saturday as the St Albans Centurions sought to consolidate their play-off position. Coach Shane Rampling had the l
RLC Southern Premiership
St Albans Centurions 16 Ipswich Rhinos 10
A BIG and physical Ipswich Rhinos were the visitors to Cotlandswick on Saturday as the St Albans Centurions sought to consolidate their play-off position.
Coach Shane Rampling had the luxury of being able to field a near full strength team for the first time this season but it needed a superb team effort to overcome a dogged Rhinos side buoyed by a close defeat last week against the runaway league leaders, South London Storm.
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Receiving the ball from the kick off Cents prop Roy Dube set the tone for a physical encounter with a rampaging run into the heart of the Rhinos defence. Ably supported by fellow forwards Joe Shaw and Andy Lake the Cents were more than a match for the powerful Rhinos side. Defensively, Paul Maloney was immense and repeatedly drove back the Rhinos forwards with some superb hits. The Rhinos, though, had the lion's share of possession and applied constant pressure but the Cents defence held up firm with Chris True, Miles Dempsey and Brant Allan making crucial try saving tackles. The Cents managed to move the ball out wide on a few occasions to the rampaging left wing partnership of van der Merwe and Steynberg but the Rhinos were able to scramble across well.
It was a day where the defences were on top and remarkably, there was no score until the 26th minute when good work by the Rhinos saw them cross for the opening try, which they failed to convert.
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Shortly after the restart the Cents were able to apply pressure on the Rhinos line but a long clearance kick put them back on their own 10 metre line. Great work from the ruck area by youngsters Vassie and Coyle however, put the Rhinos on the back foot, and a clever kick from Man of the Match Adam Kal saw van der Merwe beat the cover before off loading to the supporting Kal who outpaced the defence for a 60 metre try. Andrew John converted to make the half time score 6-4 to the Cents.
The Rhinos came out strongly for the start of the second half and immediately put the Cents under pressure. Despite some huge hits by Rampling, True and Maloney the Rhinos were able to force their way over for a converted try to take the lead, 6-10.
The war of attrition continued in midfield with Shaw, Allan, Roberson and Steynberg all requiring treatment. A error on the restart put the Cents under pressure but a spear tackle on Cents captain Maloney gave the Cents a much needed relieving penalty.
It was now the turn of the Cents to test the Rhinos defence and hooker Westhead almost squeezed through. The Cents maintained the pressure and a brilliant kick and chase by Kal split the Rhinos defence wide open for a try under the posts which was converted by John to take the Centurions back into the lead at 12-10. From the restart a long pass from Rampling appeared to have put van de Merwe away for a certain try but it was called back by the referee for a forward pass.
The Cents maintained the pressure though and a big hit by True gave the ball back to the Cents.
Smart play by half backs Kal and Rampling allowed the forwards to drive the Rhinos back and eventually, good handling on the left allowed van de Merwe to go over.
Unfortunately, John just failed to make the conversion which left a nerve wracking last eight minutes for the Cents supporters with the score finally poised at 16-10. A great defensive effort from the Cents team kept the Rhinos at bay and the referee blew the whistle to give the Cents a welcome two points.
Commenting after the game, Coach Rampling said: " It was a fierce, and at times, feisty encounter but our defence was awesome today.
The forwards really stood up to the challenge and I was always confident that we had the beating of a good Rhinos team. Young Johnno Elvin, who only returned from a stint playing union in New Zealand last week put in a great team performance, filling in well at hooker, second row and centre, while no-one took a sep backwards."
Next week the Centurions are away to the Surrey based Elmbridge Eagles as they continue their march to the top four play-off positions.