Centurions take on Scottish Exiles in pre-season opener
AHEAD of the new season St Albans Centurions rugby league team had their first run out when they took on a big, strong Scottish Exiles team at their Toulmin Drive ground on Saturday.
The Exiles are made up from some of the best eligible amateur players who play their rugby outside of Scotland.
Although they all play for different teams, they come together to train and play games against a variety of opposition.
In April they play against the ‘residential’ rugby league players from Scotland for the honour of selection for the Scotland Bravehearts amateur rugby league team.
The St Albans squad, (including two Scotsmen who were playing for the Exiles) were made up of a mixture of last year’s players, juniors making the step up, new signings and several rugby union players who wanted to test the water in the ‘other code’.
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It bodes well for St Albans that even with quite a few of their regular first teamers being unavailable for the game due to work commitments, they could still field a squad of 25 players for coach Shane Rampling to run his eye over.
The game started well with Cents forward Mike Hollister, taking three defenders with him, crashed over the visitors’ try line to get the first try for the Cents on the five minute mark.
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However, due to the large number of players in their squad, and with the coach wanting to give everyone a fair chance to play, it did seem that the constant rotation of players did not give the Cents a chance to play settled rugby.
The physical Scots fought back and ran in two tries of their own before the half time whistle, when they were leading 8-4.
In the second half the Cents put two of their new Australian signings on to the field, full-back Ben Moore from South Logan Magpies and hooker Ryan Kambouris, younger brother of Adam Kambouris, who played for Cents last year.
It was not long before these players made their presence felt.
There was cheers all round the ground as Moore crossed the line for two tries in 10 minutes, giving the Cents a 12-8 lead.
With 10 minutes left in the second half it looked like the Cents had won the game as hard running South African winger Rudi Van Der Merwe, spattered in blood from several ‘attentive’ tackles, outpaced several defenders and ran in the Cents’ final try.
It was to their credit that the Cents didn’t shut up shop for the win, but put on several junior and first time players, and it was no surprise to the crowd when the more experienced Exiles ran in two late tries to draw the match.
With the last kick of the game, Cents almost got the winning try when young player Brad Webber out-jumped several Scottish defenders to pluck a high kick through out of the air, only to have it knocked out of his grip as he landed in the in goal area.
After the game coach Rampling said: “ It’s early days yet. Today’s [Saturday’s] game was to give as many players as possible a bit of a blow out and shake the winter cobwebs off and to give me the chance to assess them.
“I was very happy with the returning senior players commitment, and the juniors and new players really impressed.
“The new boys, Ben and Ryan settled in well and once they find their feet they will certainly leave an impression on the opposition.
“I’d also like to thank the Scottish Exiles for giving us a great game. They are a big, hard and fast team and made us work out there on the pitch.”
On Sunday, the Cents play their second warm up game of the pre-season when they visit London Skolars to play their ‘A’ team.