St Albans suffer semi-final heartache against rampant Stags

PUBLISHED: 12:02 15 August 2016

Sam Allen scores the first of his two tries against Hemel Stags. Picture: DARRYL BROWN

Sam Allen scores the first of his two tries against Hemel Stags. Picture: DARRYL BROWN

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St Albans Centurions season ended with a whimper as they were beaten 62-14 by Hemel Stags in the semi-finals of the East League play-offs.

St Albans Centurions' Joe Baker drives the ball forward. Picture: DARRYL BROWNSt Albans Centurions' Joe Baker drives the ball forward. Picture: DARRYL BROWN

Cents had finished the regular season in second place, earning them a home tie at their Toulmin Drive ground.

And they went into the match full of confidence against a Stags side they had beaten twice already this year.

But this was a completely different affair and despite two tries from Sam Allen and one from Roy Dube, they were unable to cope with the Stags’ power.

Allen’s scores had kept Centurions in touch of their visitors but two tries in the closing minutes of the first half, followed by an injury to the Aussie shortly after the break, put pay to any hopes they had.

Cents defence holds firm. Picture: DARRYL BROWNCents defence holds firm. Picture: DARRYL BROWN

Coach Andy Lake said: “Although we were under the cosh and took a lot of pressure for the first 35 minutes, we were still very much in it.

“The loss of senior guys in key positions cost us.

“We picked up a load of injuries today and the injury to one our star half-back Sam Allen cost us as we lost his rugby brain.

“Injuries have been brutal this year. We’ve only had 40 guys this year compared to other teams who have had 80 or 90.

Joe Baker pulls a Stags player into touch. Picture: DARRYL BROWNJoe Baker pulls a Stags player into touch. Picture: DARRYL BROWN

We lost Jake McLoughlin last week to a broken ankle, another one of our half-backs, a Kiwi who has played Rugby League all his life. And as I said you can’t replace that Rugby League brain.”

Hemel had started so brightly, and with Cents giving away penalties in the early going, it was only a matter of time before they took the lead.

The surprise was it took until the 12th minute to arrive.

But slowly and surely St Albans came back into it and after Nick Woolley had made a brilliant last-ditch tackle, they got their first try of the day when Allen scorched through the Stags defence like a knife through butter.

Stags stretched their lead again but Allen again put the hosts within two points with an outrageous dummy and step.

But two tries in first half stoppage time gave Hemel a 24-10 lead and when Allen limped off with a twisted ankle four minutes in, followed by Ross Saunders, the writing was on the wall.

Stags would run in a further seven scores, converting five of them to give the score a one-sided look.

Dube’s score on the hour mark was of little consolation although it did come from a beautifully executed move, led by Woolley’s chip ahead and followed by swift hands.

Lake was left philosophical at the end of the game, although he is confident St Albans can improve on a good year overall.

He said: ““It’s been our 20th anniversary so it’s been a big season for the club and if we look back over the year it’s been pretty successful for us. We’ll take a well-earned rest and come back after Christmas.

“There’s potential that we’ll feature in next year’s Challenge Cup which starts in January or February along with Hemel Stags.

“We have been played in it before once or twice and never progressed past the first round but it’s nice to be part of it. It’s a big historical tournament for us.

“There’ll be plenty of recruitment as a bigger playing base is needed but we’ll come back stronger.”

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