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St ALBANS CENTURIONS broke off from their winter hiatus to thrash South London Storm 66-4 at Harpenden on Sunday. In a friendly played to prepare for the Powergen Rugby League Challenge Cup on 29 November, Centurions got off to a flier with four tries in the first ten minutes against their National League Three rivals. However, South London dug in until half-time, keeping the score to 20-0 before the Cents ran riot after the break.
Last season's NL3 top tryscorer Dene Miller scored four touchdowns, Matt Thomas got a hat-trick and new boy Graham Lumley scored a brace in his debut after moving from Luton Vipers. The only other newcomer on display was another Luton-based player, winger Dave Bell, who impressed Cents coach Peter Tonkin.
"While it was only a friendly and we used 21 players, I was pleased with the way it went," said the NL3 Coach of the Year. "We hadn't done anything with the ball as a team before Sunday so it was like a training run but in a match situation, which was good. It showed up a few deficiencies in defence which we need to work on before the cup game."
Centurions head to Bradford on 29 November for their debut in the world-famous Challenge Cup, where they take on Pennine League side Birkenshaw. (More details next week.) The 17 selected for that trip will mainly come from those who played on Sunday, plus Richard Smith, who was away in the USA last weekend.
"Several blokes played out of position against South London but did really well, which gives me a few more options," revealed Tonkin. "Steve Toon is out with a shoulder injury still and Nick Walker has gone back to Australia so Adam Cox played at full-back and went alright. Also, Craig Gunnell was great at half-back alongside Jamie Zonta - I'd have no hesitation in playing him there if I need to next week."
With regular skipper Tom Eisenhuth on the bench, resting a shoulder injury ahead of the Challenge Cup, the skipper was club stalwart John Longden, who impressed along with prop Scott Drewe who had his best game for many a month. "The players who have been training since early October were head and shoulders above the rest, which showed just how fit they were. Hopefully that will have been noticed by those who haven't!"
Centurions continue to train Mondays and Wednesdays at Harpenden RFC on Redbourn Road at 7.30pm.