Cents too strong for the Bulldogs

RLC Southern Premiership Hainault Bulldogs 18 St Albans Centurions 34 THE Centurions made it three wins from three after a convincing win over league new boys, the Hainault Bulldogs.  The Essex team was were hoping to take advantage of a weakened Centuri

RLC Southern Premiership

Hainault Bulldogs 18 St Albans Centurions 34

THE Centurions made it three wins from three after a convincing win over league new boys, the Hainault Bulldogs.

The Essex team was were hoping to take advantage of a weakened Centurions side - minus four players on international duty with the England Lionhearts and a number of other absences due to injury and unavailability.

The Cents blooded two debutants; Fred Vassie, younger brother of Cents prop Joe, who displayed a maturity belying his years, while another recruit from the burgeoning relationship with OV's, Matt Luckhurst, produced a solid stint to help out his new teams mates.

Kicking off on a hot and sunny day the Cents defence were able to get on top of the Bulldogs with some good hits from youngsters David Coyle and Miles Dempsey.

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After only two minutes, the defensive pressure forced the Bulldogs to throw out a speculative pass and Cents flyer Andy John intercepted to gallop in from 40 metres for the opening score. John converted easily and eventually took his game tally to 18 points.

From the kick off, experienced props Dave Roberson and Roy Dube were able to drive the Bulldogs back. Good runs from the ever improving Brett Welsh and Chris True put the Bulldogs on the back foot. Good movement from the half backs Shane Rampling and Adam Kal put John away and he was just brought down shy of the line. Shortly afterwards a great pass from Aussie Brant Allen put John over for his second try to make the score 10-0 to the Cents.

Unfortunately the Cents allowed the ball to bounce into touch from the kick off and they came under a period of sustained pressure from a big, physical Bulldogs side. Great defence from Russ Kelleway and James Larman on the left kept them at bay. The introduction of Joe Brace and Johnno Elvin, just back from a stint playing rugby union in New Zealand, got the Cents on the front foot again. Smart work by Darren Westhead saw Rampling race through a gap and he just failed to off load to the supporting True for what would have been a certain try. The Cents maintained the pressure though, and the impressive Westhead went over for a try, which was converted by John to make the score 16-0 to the Cents.

Just before half time, good hands on the Cents right saw the ever reliable Dempsey put John away for what looked to be his hat trick but the pass was adjudged to be forward.

The Cents started the second half where they left off and after good work from Dempsey and Welsh, scrum half Kal showed great skill and strength to force his was over for a score that was converted by John.

The Cents then experienced a crazy 20 minutes where they made continual errors and gave away soft penalties, which allowed a spirited Bulldogs back into the game.

The Bulldogs scored three tries in quick succession, although they didn't have their kicking boots on, and that left the score at 22- 12 in the Cents favour. The St Albans boys then got back some structure and a lovely break by True was just halted on the line as the final pass failed to go to hand.

Constant pressure on the Bulldogs next possession saw the Cents take control in a great position and coach Rampling forced his way over from close in. John converted to make the score 28-12. A communication mix up on the restart saw the Bulldogs race in for a converted try to keep them in the game. However, an off the ball incident involving a Bulldogs player galvanised the Cents and they made the Bulldogs pay with some big hits and powerful runs. A typical crashing tackle from full back True then forced an error and centre Kelleway picked up the lost ball to storm 40 yards for a try, despite pulling a hamstring in the process. John converted to make the final score 34-18 to the Cents.

Commenting after the game, coach Rampling said: "We knew this would be a tricky game with a number of players out and playing against some really big blokes on probably one of the smallest pitches most of the boys have ever played on. However, we had a really good, disciplined first half.

"The scoreboard could have read a lot better as well as we had a crazy spell when we let them in for some easy scores and we also bombed three or four sure tries. We know we still have a lot of improvement to come.

"Big Joe had a great game today, while young Westhead, another cross over from the OV's union team, had his best game to date."

Next week sees the third placed Cents clash with the fourth placed, on form, Ipswich Rhinos, (who gave the current league leaders, South London Storm their closest game of the season this weekend), as both teams seek to consolidate their position and secure a play-off berth.

Team- True, John, Allen, Kelleway, Larman, Ramplilng, Kal, Dube, Westhead, Roberson, Dempsey, Coyle, Welsh, Brace, Luckhurst, Vassie & Elvin.