Cents show their Magic

Inaugural Magic Round a huge success

RLC Southern Premiership Magic Round

St Albans Centurions 54 London Skolars’A’ 16

ALMOST 200 rugby league players and a large crowd of spectators made this first ‘Magic Round’ of rugby league a resounding success when it was held on Saturday at St Albans Centurions’ Toulmin Drive home.

Even several downpours of almost biblical proportions could not put the dampeners on the feel good factor as 11 clubs from two leagues got together to play their rugby.

Mimicking the ‘Magic Weekend’ concept of the Superleague clubs, the Rugby League Conference set aside this one weekend where clubs all come together at one venue to celebrate and play their games.

The Cents’ clash with Skolars game was the last match of the day, and it started in the middle of one of the cloudbursts. Although the rain was furious, the ground was firm and to the credit of both teams, they both adapted well to the conditions. St Albans opened the scoring when Adam Kambouris, returning to the Cents after a season playing semi-pro union in the south of France, burst through the defensive line and off loaded to player/coach Shane Rampling who dived over for the try.

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The Skolars put in a short kick off and retained the ball, but in the wet weather one of their players knocked on, and from the resultant scrum the ball went through several quick play the balls to full-back David Kramer who seemed to dance through the opposition’s defence to touch down before converting his own try.

The rain was now easing and the sun was slowly appearing, but the grass and ball were still wet and slippery and St Albans were the team that best handled the conditions. Forwards Roy Dube and Kambouris continued to crash into the North London defence, and when the ball went out wide to centre Matt Stringer no one from the Skolars could catch him as he raced in for the try. Kramer again converted.

Cents were again on the score sheet within minutes, as from the Londoners’ kick off, the ball went straight into touch, and from the tap, the ball was sent spinning through several sets of hands until it found winger Rudi van der Merwe who easily outpaced the defence and went in at the corner. Kramer converted.

St Albans’ big forward pack kept hold of the ball and made good inroads into the opposition’s area, with Joe Shaw, Cents’ second row, bursting through the line and going over to add his name to the list of scorers with Kramer again converting.

Things were looking grim for the visitors, as St Albans didn’t let them settle down and things got worse as a Cents kick through on the last tackle saw speedy winger Gareth Waters chase down the ball, scoop it up and race over the line for a converted try.

Just when the Skolars thought things could not get any worse, they did. The visitors began to throw they ball out wide but Cents’ leading try scorer Oli Fountain popped up, plucked the ball from the air and raced 70 metres to score a try that Kramer again converted.

With four minutes left of the first half, Skolars got on the board with a try by centre Olo Owanfu who side stepped his way over the Cents’ line for a try which was converted by Mick Cracken. The half time score was St Albans 40 - 6 Skolars.

At the start of the second half the heavens opened again and the Skolars had their turn in the driving seat as the rain blew directly into the Cents’ faces which allowed the visitors’ scrum half Jason Cook to jink his way through several tackles and score a converted try.

This second downpour only lasted 15 minutes and the St Albans boys regained their position when it stopped, as they ran in two further tries in three minutes.

First, stand off George Stevens put through a perfectly weighted kick for Fountain to chase, collect and score, and from the kick off, Cents forward Dylan Rampling made a strong 40 metre run, knocking several Skolars defenders to the floor before passing to scrum half Mick Wade who put a long pass out wide for van der Merwe to cross the line.

This got an extra cheer from the crowd as the Centurions had got their half century of points. Give Skolars their due, they never got disheartened, and kept in the game and after a series of penalties, they worked their way up field and hooker Ronnie Mustisi crossed for a try.

St Albans had the last word though, as Skolars gave away two penalties on the trot and from these Cents marched downfield and got the ball out wide to Fountain who raced over to complete his hat-trick.

Player coach Shane Rampling said afterwards: “What a great day this has been for rugby league. Eleven teams coming together to enjoy their sport, it was just a pity about the rain. “St Albans Centurions’ organisers and the RLC should be praised for what they achieved here today.

“About our game, well, considering the conditions, I thought we did very well. We kept the balls short and sharp in the wind and rain, and threw them about in the sunshine. The team did very well today; we seem to be getting better with each game.”

Next week, second placed Centurions travel to first place Hammersmith Hoists for a top of the table battle.

Cents: Kramer, van der Merwe, Stringer, Woolley, Waters, Stevens, Wade, Dube, S Rampling, Bell, Drummond, Shaw, Kambouris, Blinkhorn, Day, Westhead, Kelloway, D Rampling, Fountain.