Smith stars as Centurions power back to form
Rugby League Conference Southern Premier Division St Albans Centurions 38 Elmbridge RL 32 RICHARD Smith put in an inspirational performance as St Albans Centurions returned to winning ways at the Recreation Ground on Saturday.
Rugby League Conference
Southern Premier Division
St Albans Centurions 38 Elmbridge RL 32
RICHARD Smith put in an inspirational performance as St Albans Centurions returned to winning ways at the Recreation Ground on Saturday.
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The Colney Heath based Cents, were forced to battle to overcome Elmbridge RL and end their recent losing streak.
Smith returned the side along with Rudi van der Merwe and Jacques Steynberg but they still fielded a relatively inexperienced pack and fielded injured duo Oli Fountain and Dan Hensby.
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The first 15 minutes were fairly even but it was Elmbridge who scored first when the excellent Mike McSweeney darted through a slack defence to touch down. Five minutes later they stretched their lead as Leon Gillespie dived in under the posts and Rick Mee added the extra two points.
Cents were threatening with Steynberg, Shane Rampling, Roy Dube, Dan Hensby and Jamie Molloy all in lively form but the St Albans side failed to complete their sets due to sloppy mistakes.
Fountain, soon to be unavailable for three weeks on England duty, did particularly well in defence, chasing back to save a certain try and, as an added bonus, ripping the ball to regain possession.
The home side paid the price again for their inability to hold the ball as Elmbridge loose forward, Doug Rodman went over on the right to put the Surrey side 14 points ahead.
With another defeat on the cards, Smith, who had a marvellous game, led by example and three minutes before half time grabbed his first try of the match. Chris True made the initial break and strong running from Smith himself, Steynberg and Miles Dempsey allowed Smith to race over the line. Jack Cornthwaite added the goal.
When the Cents were awarded a penalty after Elmbridge put the ball straight into touch from the kick off, Miles Dempsey, Jack Cornthwaite and Rudi van der Merwe powered downfield, setting up Jamie Molloy for a good try on the left. Cornthwaite slotted the goal and Cents had reduced their deficit to 12-14 at the break.
The momentum was now with Cents and van der Merwe, in the unaccustomed role of stand off half, combined with Smith to set up Miles Dempsey to power over from close range. Cornthwaite added an excellent goal to give Cents the lead.
The hosts struck again when Lewis Padmore set up a good field position and van der Merwe scored under the posts after gathering his own kick. The reliable Cornthwaite again added the extra two points.
On 50 minutes speedy South African winger, Steynberg, scored a spectacular trademark try, showing both power and pace, and the Centurions had racked up 28 unanswered points in less than 20 minutes either side of half time.
Elmbridge fought back as Cents lapsed and three quick tries for the visitors brought them within two points at 28-26 with 10 minutes to play.
The Cents responded and started completing their sets of six tackles and holding on to the ball. Andy Weldon, Rampling, John Elvin, Dempsey and Hensby all made good yards before Smith scored a simple try, converted by Cornthwaite.
Cents gave the ball away from the kick off to allow Elmbridge full back Rich Hewison in for a try and Rick Mee kicked only his second goal of the match to reduce the margin to a mere two points again.
It was left to Man of the Match, Smith, to secure the points for St Albans. Hensby and John Elvin moved the ball upfield with strong runs before passing to Smith who went over for a well deserved hat trick, sealing the 38-32 success.
Centurions: Cornthwaite, True, Fountain, Steynberg, Hensby, van der Merwe, Rampling, Padmore, Smith, Dube, Elvin, Molloy, M. Dempsey, Weldon, Vassie, Sharpe, Brace.