Rampling's pride at players
Pre Season Friendly Hemel Stags 36 - 32 St Albans Centurions PLAYER coach Shane Rampling declared himself immensely proud of his inexperienced St Albans Centurions team after they narrowly lost to local rivals Hemel Stags in a pre-season friendly. The
Pre Season Friendly
Hemel Stags 36 - 32 St Albans Centurions
PLAYER coach Shane Rampling declared himself 'immensely proud' of his inexperienced St Albans Centurions team after they narrowly lost to local rivals Hemel Stags in a pre-season friendly.
The Cents travelled the eight miles to Hemel with a squad containing two players under the age of 18 and two players who had never played a competitive game of rugby league and, despite this inexperience, the visitors led the game for 70 minutes.
Rampling said: "I came to Hemel with a mixed squad to give players a taste of Rugby League. It contained one 16-year-old, one 17-year-old, two union players who have never played a competitive game of rugby league before, and the rest were a mixture of first teamers and development squad. For 70 odd minutes we were not only in the lead, but I thought we were the better team. If we could just have held out for the last five minutes it would have been a great victory over an opponent from a higher league. I am immensely proud of the boys today."
Kicking off in bright sunshine, things didn't look too good for the Cents when after only four minutes one of Stags big six forwards crashed through the Cents defence and got their first try. The game then went backwards and forwards as the teams sized each other up. Hemel seemed unsettled as they couldn't break the Cents defence, and gave away six silly penalties in a 15-minute period. The turning point came after 20 minutes when player coach Rampling got a great pass out as he was being tackled and Chris True went in at the corner. Pete Chapman got the conversion to give Cents a 4-6 lead.
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Taking the lead seemed to 'sting' Hemel and they started to put in big hits and gang tackles, and in doing so gave away four further penalties as Cents gained ground upfield.
On the fourth penalty, Rudy Van Der Merwe took a quick tap, burst through the Stags line and offloaded to True again, who went in under the posts. Chapman again added the conversion.
Hemel seemed set for self destruction and in the next set of six, started to give away a series of four penalties. Whilst Hemel were in disarray True once again got the ball, outpaced the defence and scored to complete his hat-trick.
Five minutes later, Cents old boy Mike Okwosogu took the ball, ran through six tackles over 40 metres and scored a great try with Chapman adding the extras.
Hemel noticeably stepped up a notch, and the last 10 minutes of the half saw them continuously pounding the Cents line with their big forwards, running in two tries during the period.
The second half started well for St Albans when after five minutes, a 15-yard drive by Chapman saw him get the ball out to Rugby League debutant Darren Westwood who crashed through three Hemel players and scored. Chapman kept up his good form to kick the extras.
Cents looked on a roll when after a further 10 minutes Rudi Van Der Merwe and Johnno Elvin linked up and a great pass saw Jacques Steynberg cross the line.
It seemed that at this point the Stags began to change their tactics. They played their big forward pack straight down the middle, time and time again, and at one point Cents had to hold off four sets of six whilst encamped on their own line. Unfortunately these tactics began to pay off, and the young Cents team were visibly tiring.
All the big lads crashing forward began to wear out the Cents and Hemel managed to get three tries in the last 10 minutes to draw level.
Five minutes from the end there was a bit of 'handbags' that involved most of both teams, when a Hemel player appeared to go in with the elbow on a floored Cents player. Unfortunately the ref saw the retaliation, not the original offence, and awarded a penalty to Hemel.
After driving the ball forward, Hemel crossed the Cents line with less than five minutes left. Cents nearly clawed it back at the last minute when Steynberg was pulled down by the last man in the Hemel defence as he headed for their line. Although defeated, after this run out, things look good for Cents for the forthcoming season.