St Albans Centurions defy injury crisis with heroic performance at St Ives
PUBLISHED: 10:18 10 July 2019 | UPDATED: 10:18 10 July 2019
On paper St Albans Centurions' 42-6 loss at St Ives Roosters looks damaging but the battered and bruised squad still returned from Cambridgeshire with their heads held high.
With an injury list they described "as long as the Punic Wars", the Cents made the journey north with just 13 fit men to face a talented Roosters outfit who just two weeks earlier had handed St Albans a hard lesson.
However, the final score masks the away team's heroic efforts.
In driving rain, the Centurions put on a 40-minute master-class in the art of defence.
Wave after wave of green shirts were denied as the Centurions put their bodies on the line with forwards Niall Braniff, Roy Dube and Callum Porter making a bone-crunching 53 tackles between them.
Eventually, St Ives opted to utilise their plan B and on 35 minutes the left winger caught a speculative up-and-under over the line to put them on the scoreboard.
But on the stroke of half-time, they were behind.
A rare foray into the opposition half saw St Albans win back-to-back penalties and just as the seconds ran out, player-coach Simba Mupamhanga took a short pass to evade the full-back and touch down under the posts.
Dale Gardner converted for an unlikely but thoroughly deserved 6-4 lead.
The second half, however, proved to be too much of a task.
St Ives introduced more width on their play and once Isaac Lee, who'd already been in the wars, was carried from the field of play, the Centurions' dream left with him.
On the hour mark, Gardner, who was carrying a knock from the start, hobbled to the bench and the floodgates opened.
Mupamhanga was philosophical about the defeat.
He said: "By a long way, the first-half was our best defensive performance of the season.
"Victory was always going to beyond us against a very good team with 18 players to bring on and off but just to have them worried at half-time was a great moral success. I couldn't be more proud."
The Centurions meet Brentwood in Bedford for the East League Cup Final on Saturday, July 20, with a 2.30pm kick-off.