Opening day triumph for the Cents

Alessandro Ricci catches an 'up'n under' kick

Alessandro Ricci catches an 'up'n under' kick - Credit: Archant

THE rugby league season returned to St Albans on Saturday as the St Albans Centurions convincing beat Northampton Demons 32-0 in their first league game.

Winger Keiron O'Shea on his way to the try line

Winger Keiron O'Shea on his way to the try line - Credit: Archant

At the end of last term, the Cents found themselves without a coach when Shane Rampling returned to his native Australia, and new coach Andy Champ was appointed to replace him.

Simba Mupamhanga stretches out to score a try

Simba Mupamhanga stretches out to score a try - Credit: Archant

St Albans also lost their contingent of four Australian players, when their visas expired and they also returned home.

Forward Scott Clellow on the attack

Forward Scott Clellow on the attack - Credit: Archant

The new coach set about recruiting and training his new team, and together with new team captain Rob Holbrook, it seems that it paid off in their first game.

The game was dominated by the fierce tackling from the hosts.

Within five minutes of kick off a hard, but fair, tackle from Cents forward Scott Clellow saw a Demons player taken to hospital with internal injuries.

In the eighth minute Cents’ GB international Andy Lake scooped up the ball from a dropped ‘up’n under’ and powered over the line to score the Centurions first try of the season.

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This was converted by full back Gareth Walters.

After 20 minutes new signing Alessandro Ricci pounced on a dropped ball and from 35 metres out, beat three defenders, ducked and sidestepped his way over the line to score in the corner.

This gave the Cents a 10-0 lead.

With two minutes left in the half, and after absorbing attack after attack from Northampton, the Centurions broke free and forced their way downfield.

Simba Muphamanga came off the Cents bench and announced his presence by smashing his way through three Demons defenders and scoring beneath the posts.

Walters converted to make the half-time score 16-0.

The visitors started the second half at a terrific pace, clearly trying to get some early points on the board, and for the majority of the first 20 minutes, Centurions were on the defensive, always in their own third of the field, always gang tackling and pushing the Northampton team back.

Due to the constant attack, the Cents gave away a large amount of penalties, at one time, five sets of six tackles, one after the other, but still their defence held out.

On 20 minutes, in one of their rare attacks into the visitors half, a crunching tackle on the Demons full back saw him spill the ball.

Cents senior player Roy Dube pounced on the ball, made a great run and passed out to Kieran O’Shea who outpaced the visitors defence to score. Full back Walters again converted.

The game then became more open, flowing from end to end.

In the last 10 minutes Cents prop forward Mike Hollister ran in two tries, the first, a crashing run that could not be stopped, and the last one saw him challenge the Demons full back in the air as they both went for a high, hanging kick over the visitors try line.

They collided and both missed the ball, but Hollister was the first to recover as he scrambled past several defenders and touched the ball down.

With one of the last two trys converted, the Centurion were the 32-0 winners.

Coach Andy Champ said after the game: “I was really pleased with the team’s defensive work today.

“Every tackle seemed to involve two or three players, and all that work on fitness and wrestling we do in the gym is paying off.

“We still have a few more players to come back into the squad, so things are looking good for us at the moment.”

Club chairman Brian Parker added: “That was a great game to start the season with.

“The team’s defence was awesome.

“The Aussies say that a good defence wins games, and that is what happened here today.

“Whilst the trys were very well taken, I think everyone who watched this game came away talking about our defence.

“I’m not sure what coach Champ is doing to those players in their training sessions, but it is certainly paying off.”

St Albans face Nottingham Outlaws away on Sunday.