Rhinos too powerful for patched up Cents

Missing men prove too much for Cents

RLC Southern Premier

St Albans Centurions 20 Eastern Rhinos 28

IN DRY, breezy conditions an uncompromising arm wrestle of a game ended with quite a few bloodied and bruised walking wounded on both sides, a trip to hospital for one of the Rhinos and a hard earned win for the Colchester side.

This was always going to be a tough game for second placed St Albans up against third place Eastern Rhinos, with both teams hoping to consolidate their positions in the league.

The game started well for St Albans when, after sustained pressure, they capitalised on a poor drop out from the Rhinos to send Joe Shaw over the line for the opening try, with the conversion landed by Lewis Dempsey.

On 14 minutes Rhino’s Matt Harwood crashed through some weak tackling to score and a conversion made the scores level before a couple of minutes later, whilst going in for a two man tackle, a clash of heads left Centurions prop Keir Bell and player/coach Shane Rampling both in a daze on the floor. This was the first of numerous injury breaks in what was to be a very bruising encounter.

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Huge hits and brave defending - typified by a brave take and drive from Dempsey behind his own line - set the pattern for the next 10 minutes. Centurions were first to blink and two missed tackles allowed the visitors’ Adam Cook to dance through the line for his first try of the game. The conversion was successful, but worst was to follow for St. Albans.

Just minutes later Rhinos’ Dan Donnelly used his pace to glide past the Centurions defence for another try and with the conversion landed, Rhinos led 18-6 at half time.

Coach Shane Rampling read the riot act to his team during the break and this paid almost immediate dividends. First they forced the Rhinos into a penalty and then when returning the ball, the Centurions set up Dan Blinkhorn to crash through seven players for an unconverted try. For the next 10 minutes the Colchester outfit could not get out of their own half and the pressure eventually told when Shaw broke through the line and offloaded brilliantly to Ollie Fountain who appeared as if from no where on Shaw’s shoulder. Fountain raced clear to score beneath the posts leading to an easy conversion for Dempsey.

With the score at 18-16 the momentum was all with St. Albans. However a missed kick to touch by Dempsey proved very costly when Rhinos ran the ball back with real purpose, against the run of play, to score in the left hand corner. Even though the attempted conversion hit the post the tide was beginning to turn against the St Albans outfit.

A few minutes later St Albans had a loose pass intercepted 20 yards out from their line and Rhinos winger Cook raced through for his second try, with a successful conversion that put St Albans 12 points down with less than 15 minutes to go.

Naturally the St. Albans team threw everything they had at the visitors but the Rhinos did not back down an inch and throughout this time several of their players left the field with blooded faces, cracked sides and in one case a broken collar bone.

Centurions catch up rugby only delivered one unconverted try - all be it a brilliant effort - from Darren Westhead who wriggled and ducked his way through six Rhinos players to score.

Centurions chairman Brian Parker said after the game: “That was one of the toughest games we have had all season, and when you say that about a Rugby League game, you know its been a tough one.

“I’ve lost count of the number of players that were coming off the pitch to get patched up before going back out there again. Unfortunately, what we have suffered with several times this season, the unavailability of several key players, hurt the Centurions again today and though everyone in the team gave their all, I think I can say the result was a fair one.”

St Albans are travelling to North London on Saturday to play the London Skolars ‘A’ team.

Kick off is at 2.30pm at the Community Sports Stadium, White Hart Lane.