St Albans Centurions shoot themselves in the foot after disastrous finish and missed chances against Hemel

St Albans Centurions' Dale Gardner wrongfoots the Stags defence to set up his first try. Picture: DA

St Albans Centurions' Dale Gardner wrongfoots the Stags defence to set up his first try. Picture: DARRYL BROWN - Credit: Archant

St Albans Centurions were left to rue a succession of missed chances as they lost 32-20 away to rivals Hemel Stags.

It was their fourth successive road trip and on a windswept afternoon it began with a now almost customary early try.

Just one minute was on the clock this time but any thoughts of a walkover by the hosts were soon dispelled as ferocious tackling and solid forward play brought Saints back into an enthralling game.

Chances to draw level went begging for the Centurions and they paid a heavy price when the Stags crossed the line again just before the half-hour mark to lead 10-0.

Cents did finally get on the board before the break after sterling work from always-impressive Dale Gardner, who seemed to side-step his way through half the Hemel team for a try expertly converted by Alex Powdrell.

And after the interval it was St Albans who ran the show.

Marshalled brilliantly by Sam Bucknall the visitors snatched three tries in a stunning seven-minute salvo.

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Their second was Gardner's second too and Tom Sweeney added an excellent try of his own for number three.

And when Niall Braniff smashed through a demoralised defence for Powdrell to convert, the Centurions were 20-10 up and cruising.

Further tries should have followed but a series of careless mistakes let Hemel off and they took full advantage.

They pulled one back on 66 minutes but with eight minutes to go Saints were still ahead 20-14 and in control.

But when a converted try brought the home team level, the Centurions lost their composure and two further converted tries, the first of which had St Albans annoyed with the referee, gave Hemel an unlikely victory.

Coach Simba Mupamhanga said: "After a terrible start, we dominated the second half and should have run away as clear winners.

"The ref's indecision didn't help but it was our own decision-making which eventually cost us the points.

"Hopefully, it's a lesson all the players can learn from."

They have an instant chance of revenge against the Stags when the teams head to Toulmin Drive for the East Rugby League Cup semi-final on Saturday.