Fountain sparkles as Cents win again

Rugby League Conference - Southern Premiership

Eastern Rhinos 14 St Albans Centurions 18

SECOND placed St Albans Centurions travelled to Colchester to take on third place Eastern Rhinos in week five of the RLC Southern Premiership.

Cents were without several key players, one of whom, Andy Lake, was on international duty with the English Lionhearts. Eighteen-year-old George Stevens and 17-year-old Lewis Dempsey made their first appearances for the Cents.

The game was played in bright sunshine but with an exceedingly strong cross wind that made any high kicks and long passes unpredictable. This was evident right from the kick off when a high spiralling kick was allowed to bounce awkwardly by St Albans and a Rhinos player running at full speed collected the ball and scored in the corner.

After an error strewn 10 minutes, Cents charged down a kick and Oli Fountain got the ball out to Dempsey who took the ball 40 metres up field. Cents began to get accustomed to the conditions and instead of playing their usual expansive game, had to use short, accurate passes and rely on the big men to gain the hard yards. After 15 minutes Cents’ winger Rudi Van Der Merwe was on the receiving end of a high tackle and from the resulting penalty Cents were able to get into the Rhinos half, only to be driven back by quick play from the Rhinos. The Rhinos were driving towards the St Albans line when they dropped the ball, only to have speed merchant Fountain scoop the ball up and outpace the defenders as he went 60 metres down field to score St Albans’ first try. New boy Stevens converted the try making it 6-4 to St Albans.

St Albans winger Alan Petty caught and managed to pull down a Colchester attacker who broke through and was heading unopposed for the line before Fountain made another 40 metre break through the Rhinos defence, linking up with Van De Merwe who crashed over and scored in the corner. The conversion was unsuccessful.

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When the game restarted a cracking tackle from Martin Day jolted the ball loose from a Colchester player which was then knocked on by another Rhinos man. From the penalty the ball was played through several pairs of hands at a fast speed and ended up once again with Fountain who side stepped his way through the rattled Rhinos defence and scored in the opposite corner.

The second half started with the Rhinos playing fast hard rugby and putting St Albans under a lot of pressure. Fortunately they dropped the ball on two occasions when they were within 10 metres of the Cents try line. St Albans tried to get the ball out of the danger zone but gave away a penalty and Colchester managed to cross over deep in the corner. Ten minutes later one of the St Albans players tried to catch a long ball in the swirling wind and knocked on within sight of their own tryline. The Colchester forwards took the ball in time and time again winning a second set of six tackles and eventually crossing the line to get another try, which was converted making the score 14-14. The game again turned when St Albans began putting pressure on to the Rhinos, being held up either on or over their try line on three separate occasions. With both sets of players thinking they could secure victory in the last 10 minutes the tackles were going in hard and fast causing the game to be stopped on several occasions whilst players were taken off or received treatment. With only five minutes remaining St Albans’ pressure paid off when an Rhinos’ player knocked the ball on and from the scrum the ball went through half a dozen pairs of hands, until it reached Fountain who once again who crashed over and scored the try which went unconverted.

It was left to the Centurions to keep the pressure on the Rhinos for the last five minutes to ensure a victory away from home.

Player/coach Shane Rampling said after the game: “That was one tough game. Full credit to the Rhinos, they played for the full 80 minutes and we had to change our usually expansive game style to one of short passes because the wind was causing chaos with the ball in the air.

“Oli Fountain was very good, a great finisher, he must be awful to play against, and a big well done must also go to our forwards, they put in the hard yards today. We have a great mix of players here, some in their thirties, very experienced, and quite a few in their late teens and early twenties in their first season with us, but today they all played like true St Albans Centurions.”

St Albans next game is on Saturday, June 11, at 2.30pm at Toulmin Drive, St Albans when they play South London Storm.

Cents: Kramer, Fountain, Van Der Merwe, Stevens, Petty, Norris, Wade, Dube, S. Rampling, Bell, Hollister, Kaye, Dempsey, Blinkhorn, Walter, Webber, Day, D. Rampling, Kelleway.