Hemel victory keeps St Albans in contention at the top of the table
Saints record good win over neighbours Hemel Hempstead
London Two North West
St Albans 42 Hemel Hempstead 20
ST ALBANS welcomed local rivals Hemel Hempstead to Boggymead Spring on Saturday, trying to avenge their defeat on the final game of last season. This was the 11th league fixture of this season, thus completing the half way stage.
After performing so poorly last week, Saints were determined to make amends and despite having three key players out, were certainly first out of the blocks. The passing had a crispness once again and the continuity between backs and forwards had also returned.
The home support didn’t have to wait long for the first score, typically coming from a well rehearsed move. Quick ball from a lineout just outside the visitors’ 22 saw a clever delayed pass in the centres and left wing Johnny Andrews, appearing in the full-back channel, punched a hole through Hemel’s defence. With the full-back to beat, he found Ross Turnbull on his shoulder for a perfect score.
Only minutes later Saints found themselves 14-0 to the good when a speculative kick from Andrews saw the ball bounce horribly for the Hemel cover, his fumble allowed Gareth Lane to pounce and he had the pace to run the 35 metres to the line unchallenged.
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At this stage the visitors looked a beaten side, but some sloppy play from the home side inside their own 22 allowed the Hemel centre to collect spilled possession and crash over. This gave the visitors belief and before long they had a second try, this time from a well worked move. Saints had to re-group and get back to the intensity of the first 20 minutes. When awarded a kickable penalty, Saints conservatively chose the easy option, Dave Watkins third success establishing a seven point cushion.
With halftime approaching, Saints again showed their cutting edge in the three-quarters. Andrews, again coming off his wing, looking for work, found a gap through the opposition’s centres and Lane was on hand to take the pass, although this time the Hemel cover forced him into the corner. A lead of 22-10 seemed a fair reflection of an entertaining first half.
The second half began with Saints continuing their superiority, immediately striking with another Watkins penalty. Saints’ fourth try, securing their bonus point was a real team effort, the ball transferring from forwards to backs seemlessly, ending up with superb soft hands from second row Tom Styles, sending over prop Sean Edwards in the corner.
Shortly after, Saints looked to have gone over again but stand off Martin Alderton was adjudged ‘held-up’ over the tryline. Saints were now playing with gay abandon, their confidence fully returned and another delightful sweeping move saw Andrews touchdown in the corner. They were now running riot and seemed capable of scoring at will.
Another excellent catch and drive from a lineout pushed deep into opposition territory, Smart at scrum-half fed the eager backs but it was fitting that prop Andy Weldon was on hand to take Alderton’s clever inside pass. Watkins completed Saints scoring with the conversion. The result was now not in doubt, but much credit must be given to the visitors, who rallied in the last five minutes to score two excellent tries, thus securing at least a bonus point for their endeavours.
Saints were pleased with their afternoon’s work, although conceding late on has become a disappointing trait. No. 8 Craig Huddleston was singled out afterwards for his all round efforts although all forwards must be praised, having ensured the backs had a quality platform to work from all day.
St Albans: Watkins, Morris, Lane, Turnbull, Andrews, Alderton, Smart; Edwards, Monaghan, Weldon, Styles, M Huddleston, Erwee, Ransome, C Huddleston.
Reps: Lemiere, Sharp, Satchell.