‘We lost it as much as they won it’ - Ijeoma

Ashley Westhead gets held up over the line for the second time.

Ashley Westhead gets held up over the line for the second time. - Credit: Archant

Cents threw away the chance to pick up their second London League win of the season at Colchester on Saturday.

Leading 14-10 at the interval, mistakes and missed opportunities from St Albans saw Eastern Rhinos move and stay ahead to win the game.

“I know it sounds strange, but I think we lost that match as much as Eastern Rhinos won it,” said Centurions head coach Obi Ijeoma.

“There was plenty of heart, but there was just too many dropped balls and missed opportunities.”

St Albans Centurions travelled to Colchester on Saturday with a squad still suffering from the effects of having played two hard games in four days last week. Stalwarts Joe Shaw, Scott Clewlow, Simba Mupamhanga, Sam Norris, Brad Webber and two of the three Dempsey brothers were all missing from the line up.

There were returns, though, for Ashley Westhead, Matt Stringer, Andy Hogg and Kier Bell.

For the first thirty minutes of the first half it looked like the Cents would romp away with this game.

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Ashley Westhead jinked past three defenders to cross the line, only to have it ruled as a no try as his foot went into touch as he crossed the try line, before Josh Lawrence burst over the line. Nick Woolley converted.

Ten minutes later Kieron O’Shea outpaced the defence as he ran in an unconverted try out wide, and on the 20 minute mark, Stringer ran in another unconverted try on the other wing from 30 yards out.

Rhinos, knowing they could not compete with the St Albans’ speedier backs, played their rugby down the middle, time after time their large forwards crashed into the defensive wall and eventually they ran in two tries and a conversion in the last six minutes of the half.

If the Cents dominated the first thirty minutes of the game, the Rhinos dominated the second thirty minute period, scoring three tries, two of which came from the visitors dropping the ball in their own half and the home team scooping it up and running it in.

With the Rhinos leading 28-14 and 15 minutes left, the game swung back in the Centurions favour. First Ashley Westhead crossed the try line again, only for the points not to be given as it was ruled that he was held up. Then George Stevens crossed the try line and this was not given as the referee said there was no downward pressure on the ball.

Not dismayed, two minutes later Stevens then crossed the Eastern try line again for a score that was given, which was converted by Gareth Waters.

With 10 minutes left, Simon Paige caused confusion in the Rhinos ranks with an early kick through, and in the resulting scramble Paige caught the ball and touched down.

With only four points the difference, the last five minutes saw the Centurions camped in the Rhinos 20 yards area. Miles Dempsey, David Coyle and captain Mike Hollister all made charging runs to break the defence but to no avail, the Eastern Rhinos held out to take the match.

Team manager Shaun Orton said: “These are the games we should be winning. We scored the same number of tries as the opposition; the difference was they converted two more kicks than we did.

“Three of their tries came from our mistakes or missed tackles. We also crossed their line another four or five times, only to have these attempts disallowed. We must be clinical, if we cross the line we must get that ball down.”

Next Saturday sees the Centurions take on top of the table side South West London Chargers in the London Rugby League Cup semi-final. The game starts 3pm at the Centurions ground at Toulmin Drive, St Albans.