Centurions go close to causing an upset against Hemel Stags

ST Albans Centurions need to keep their guard up at all times, they dropped it twice in the 20-12 loss to derby rivals Hemel Stags, and it cost them, according to captain Andy Lake.

The Cents almost caused an upset against the league leaders, they led 8-6 at half-time and 12-10 at one stage in the second period before the Stags went on to claim the victory.

Lake said: “I am so proud of this team, for most of this game we were in charge and in the lead. We let our guard down twice, and against Hemel you can’t do that and they punished us both times.

“Our problem is that being an amateur team in an ‘open’ league, we can’t guarantee having the same players available week after week.

“This is the strongest team we have fielded so far, and they have shown just what they can do. Who knows what would have happened if the 50-50 calls had gone our way.”

This was the first competitive meeting between Cents and The Stags since 2006 when both teams played in the same Conference.

While St Albans have remained an amateur club, Hemel have taken that extra step and become a semi-pro side, that next year will be playing in the Rugby League Championship.

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St Albans were definitely the underdogs in this game as table-toppers Hemel were eight places above them in the league, however the game did not go according to plan with Cents almost causing a big upset and coming away with a bonus point.

The game was played in cold and very wet conditions, making it hard for both teams to control the ball.

In the first few minutes the Cents gave away a penalty for a high tackle and from the tap, Hemel sent the ball down the line to score an unconverted try in the corner.

For the next 20 minutes neither team could take control in the atrocious weather.

In the 28th minute Hemel gave away a penalty, from the resulting play a good drive by the Cents forwards set up winger Mike Benson to score in the corner.

With five minutes of the half left, some Hemel players were becoming frustrated with Centurions’ expansive style of play and gave away two penalties in two sets of six.

On the second tap, St Albans’ captain Lake took the ball on the full and crashed through the Hemel defence to score another unconverted try. In the last couple of minutes, Hemel were awarded a penalty, and a murmur ran round the 200-plus spectators as they opted for the two points instead of running the ball.

Centurions went in at half-time defying the odds by leading the league-leaders 8-6.

The second period began badly for the Cents when after only two minutes Hemel scored an unconverted try in the corner.

From the kick-off, Hemel were penalised for an incorrect play the ball and the resulting possession saw the Cents forwards power down field, setting up Benson for his second try. Cents were back in the lead, 12-10.

As the rain eased off, there followed a period of open, end-to-end rugby.

The St Albans team crossed the try line twice more, only to have both tries disallowed.

With the game nearing its end, with a major upset on the cards, the Stags showed why they are table-toppers when deep kicks to the corners were slow to be followed up by the Cents and the Stags came up with two tries in the last seven minutes of the game.

Cents travel to Cheshire at the weekend to take on second placed Warrington Wolves.