Cents miss out on play offs

ST Albans Centurions 8 West London Sharks 44 St Albans Centurions were pipped at the post as they just failed to make it into the play-offs, losing out to the unbeaten West London Sharks last Tuesday evening.

Rugby League Conference Southern Premiership

St Albans Centurions 8 West London Sharks 44

St Albans Centurions were pipped at the post as they just failed to make it into the play-offs, losing out to the unbeaten West London Sharks last Tuesday evening.

Coach Shane Rampling was not too downhearted with his side's display nor with the Cents ending the season in fourth place in the League. "The better side won," he said. "The Sharks proved again that they're the best team in the competition. We competed against them in patches but they're a big, fit, physical squad and we just couldn't contain their offloads. To our credit, we never gave up and we were unlucky not to score more than two tries."

The game started with the two sides looking evenly matched and for the first quarter there was nothing in it. The Centurions launched a number of promising attacks and a fantastic Angus Simpson break from the base of the scrum saw the ball fed wide to speedster Jacques Steynberg who was held up inches from the line. Jonno Elvin burst through and there were strong runs from Roy Dube, Rudi van der Merwe and Paul Maloney.

The Cents were looking solid in defence with plenty of good work from skipper Richard Smith, Tom Martell, playing as ever above his weight, and indeed the whole team but the Sharks were looking big and hungry. Something had to give and on twenty minutes full back, Terance Puna, pounced on a tap through to score under the posts.

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The Cents hit back with excellent work from Paul Maloney, still jet lagged after his return from the Student World Cup in Australia. Roy Dube took the ball further upfield and fed Shane Rampling who was stopped just short of the try line.

The West London team were beginning to demonstrate why they hadn't been beaten all season and a wonderful passage of flowing rugby saw them combine to send the impressive Tawara over for a try, converted by Dance, who didn't miss a kick all evening.

The Cents were not going to give in without a struggle and on the half hour, Richard Smith sent a short pass out to Oli Fountain on the right wing. A trademark step and run from Fountain saw him go half the field for a fine individual try.

Despite a try-saving tackle from Owen Doyle, the Sharks managed to get the ball wide to Puna for another try. A fine kick off saw the Cents regain possession. Richard Smith was held up over the line, then further attacks from Jacques Steynberg and the ever-improving Lewis Padmore led to a fine Joe Vassie effort. The St Albans side were doing everything but score.

Cruelly, on the brink of half-time, another Anthony Tawara try put the West Londoners into a slightly flattering 24-4 lead.

There was, however, nothing flattering or fortuitous about the Sharks' display in the second period when they completely dominated proceedings after brief St Albans resistance. A good kick from Angus Simpson forced a West London error. From the resultant scrum there was fine interplay between Rampling and Steynberg. Chris True was again only inches away from the line and Mike Okwusogu attacked with real vigour.

But then the floodgates opened. After a penalty goal from Dance on fifty minutes there were two excellent tries from Maehe Reweti and another from Goldings. With Jye Dance converting them all, the West London Sharks had racked up 44 points.

In the dying minutes, Cents managed a consolation try when Oli Fountain latched onto a high ball from Angus Simpson to go over in the corner.

Player/coach Shane Rampling was philosophical, as he reflected on the season: "It's been an up and down year," he said after the match. "We always knew it was going to be tough following the departure of seven of our Championship-winning team. Then it became even harder when we lost Kristian Warner and Nick Surtees after only two rounds. But the youngsters are coming through and we've really got something to build on for next season."

Centurions: Owen Doyle; Chris True; Oli Fountain; Rudi van der Merwe; Jacques Steynberg; Shane Rampling; Angus Simpson; Roy Dube; Richard Smith; Lewis Padmore; Paul Maloney; Tom Martell; Jonno Elvin; Simon Lye; Joe Vassie; Tobi Osibodeu; Mike Okwusogu.