Centurions hang on to claim Hertfordshire bragging rights

Josh Lawrence is tackled a metre short of the line against Hemel

Josh Lawrence is tackled a metre short of the line against Hemel - Credit: Archant

St Albans Centurions won the Hertfordshire bragging rights on Saturday with a 24-22 victory over local rivals Hemel Stags.

Jamie Lawrence on the attack

Jamie Lawrence on the attack - Credit: Archant

But whilst the Cents led comfortably for most of this game, they almost gave it away in the last fifteen minutes.

The game started as it would continue, with hard tackling and free flowing rugby.

In the 15th minute St Albans took the lead when Gareth Waters broke the Stags defensive line and found Aussie second rower Jake McLaughlin who ran in for an unconverted try.

Within five minutes Hemel struck back with their own try out wide that was also unconverted.

Nick Woolley leads another Cents attack

Nick Woolley leads another Cents attack - Credit: Archant

Playing his first game of competitive rugby league, Cents new boy Adam Russell was next on the score sheet with a great run that took two Hemel defenders over the line with him.

This time Waters kicked the conversion.

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The rest of the first half was all Centurions, as they attacked the Hemel line time after time, only to have Scott Clewlow, Josh Lawrence, Sam Bucknall and Kieran O’Shea all held up on or over the try line by a strong Stags defence.

Yet in the last few minutes of the half, and against the run of play, the Stags marched down field and scored an unconverted try.

Adam Russell scores on his Centurions debut

Adam Russell scores on his Centurions debut - Credit: Archant

The second half started very well for the Centurions, with Josh Lawrence, who was a thorn in the Hemel side all game, running in a 40 metre try within a minute of the kick off.

Waters again kicked the conversion but soon had to depart with injury.

Despite the rejig in the line-up Cents extended their lead through Nick Woolley.

Taking advantage of the Stags being a man down, the Centurions attacked again with Tim Rangihuna and Joe Shaw teaming up to put Sam Bucknall over the line to score a fifth and final Cents try.

With 10 minutes left and the Cents looking comfortable with a 24-8 lead, the game dynamic changed, with Hemel Stags doing all the attacking, and a tired looking Cents having to do most of the defending.

The visitors ran in three tries in that period, one converted, to come within two points of the Cents.

An interception from Myles Costello in the final moments released the pressure and gave St Albans the win.

Team manager Tony Bottomley said: “Up to the 60 minute mark we were the best team out there, then we tired and were punished by a resurgent Stags.

“But overall it was a very good performance, an improvement on last week.”