Improved display from the Cents despite defeat

National Conference Rugby League

St Albans Centurions 20

Warrington Wizards 40

CENTURIONS put in a much improved display on Saturday despite losing to Warrington Wizrads. The previous week they suffered a heavy defeat to league leaders Hemel Stags, but with a much healthier-looking line-up due to the return of some key faces, Cents team manager Tony Bottomley pointed to the positives.

“What a difference a week makes,” said Bottomley. “Last week we had seven players missing and were well beaten by league leaders Hemel Stags. This week three of those players have returned and we upped our game. We dominated the first half against the second placed team in the league, but unfortunately we could not keep it up all game, and they took the second half. We still have work to do, but we are getting there.”

With 15 minutes to kick-off, and after some sterling work by volunteers armed with garden forks to help drain the water from the sodden turf, the Centurions pitch at Toulmin Drive had to be inspected by the referee to see if the game could continue.

The okay was given and when the game started, it began to look like the form book was to be turned on its head. Second place in the league, Warrington were rocked by the speed and power of St Albans’ start to this game.

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After eight minutes Cents centre Mike Benson ran in a try out wide. Within three minutes of the restart, a superb long pass from Shane Rampling went out wide to winger Keiron O’Shea, who outpaced the Wizards defence to run in a second try that was converted by Lewis Dempsey.

Less than five minutes later the Cents were on the scoreboard again when a high kick to the corner saw Nick Woolley leap the highest and cross the line for St Albans’ third try.

Warrington are a semi-professional side with ex-Wigan and Oldham players in their ranks, and their experience began to show as they dragged themselves back into the game and ran in two converted tries in the 20th and 25th minute.

St Albans’ forwards crashed time and again into the Wizards defensive line, and when a kick on the fifth tackle was knocked on, Rampling got the ball from the resultant scrum and powered his way over to score Cents’ fourth try that Dempsey converted.

In the last five minutes of the half, Warrington managed to run in two tries against a Cents team that was beginning to show signs of tiredness from playing the first half at such a furious pace.

The second half did not go anywhere near as well for the Cents. Captain Andy Lake left the pitch suffering from a concussion, and several players kept the Cents physio busy with injuries and cuts. Warrington scored two tries in the first 10 minutes, but then for almost the rest of the game it was open running rugby, interspersed with handling errors caused by the wet conditions.

With the score at 32-20 and seven minutes left it looked like the home team were going to get a bonus point, however the visitors ran in two more tries against a tiring Centurions outfit in the closing moments of the game.

Next week St Albans are at home against Bramley Bufaloes, kick off 2.30pm at Toulmin Drive.