Cents impress in pre-season opener

Darren Westhead scored the Cents' first try.

Darren Westhead scored the Cents' first try. - Credit: Archant

St Albans Centurions played their first game of rugby league in 2014 when they entertained last year’s Regional and National champions, the South West London Chargers at Toulmin Drive, St Albans on Sunday.

Ryan Shorter attacks the Chargers line.

Ryan Shorter attacks the Chargers line. - Credit: Archant

Despite losing the game, 28-22, Cents’ assistant coach Andy Lake saw enough to be optimistic for the upcoming campaign.

“The head coach [Obi Ijeoma] and myself are very pleased with that run out. This is the first game our squad has played together this year, and whilst a bit rusty and not used to some of the new plays, they did very well indeed.

“We have at least another two friendlies before the season starts, and if this is anything to go on, I think we will do very well indeed.”

The game was the first of three pre-season friendlies that the club have arranged over the next few weeks to give the team a run out and shake off the cobwebs off before their season starts in May.

SW London were already up and running in their pre-season preparations, as being National Champions they had already played two very tough games in the first two rounds of the prestigious Rugby League Challenge Cup.

The game also gave the new Cents coaching partnership of Ijeoma and Lake a chance to run their eyes over the Cents squad that had first timers, juniors making the step up and first and second teamers.

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Seven first-team regulars including Lake, recovering from a close season operation, injured players Matt Stringer and Roy Dube and Joe Shaw, who had work commitments, could not make the line up, but there were quite a few new faces in the squad who were being given their first taste of rugby league.

The game opened very well for Cents when the first tackle from Scott Clellow drove a London player six feet backwards, and the first time the St Albans team had the ball, great running from Lewis Dempsey opened a gap that Darren Westhead jinked through to open the scoring.

Shortly after, a Chargers player broke through the Cents defensive line and ran half the length of the field. It looked like a definite try, but out of nowhere, Centurions winger Kieran O’Shea not only closed the gap but tackled the player with only a couple of yards to spare.

It took the champions another 20 minutes to get the score level, and then just a few minutes before half time they ran in two more tries to take an 18-6 half-time lead.

In a 10 minute period after the break, Lewis Dempsey ran in a try, followed by South West London, followed by Josh Lawrence scoring from a Mike Hollister break. On the 70th minute a tired Centurions defence gave away three penalties on the trot, allowing the Chargers to push downfield and score again.

Just when the game looked finished, Cents captain Rob Holbrook led the way in powering over for another Cents try.

With the score 28-22 and seven minutes left, St Albans kept the Chargers in their own half of the pitch, but no matter how hard they tried, they just could not cross the try line.

Three of Cents four tries were converted by Lewis Dempsey, and four of the Chargers five tries were also converted.

Cents next home game is on Sunday, March 23 when they will play a pre-season friendly against Bedford Tigers from the Eastern Premiership in a ‘Sports Aid’ game to raise money for charity.