An Adam Peel hat-trick helped St Ives Roosters preserve their position at the top of the East Premier Division by winning a cup final dress rehearsal on Saturday.

The local lads powered to a 38-20 success over North Herts Crusaders - a team they also face in the Eastern Plate Final later this month.

There were early signs of rustiness from Roosters in Hitchin as they conceded a couple of unconverted tries on their return from a fortnight out of action.

But a clever burst over from Stefan Gallucci and a 60-metre charge from Peel, both converted by Lewis Hall, soon had Roosters in the driving seat.

A second try for Peel soon followed before the hosts hit back to narrow their arrears to just two points at the break.

And Roosters found themselves trailing again soon after the restart as a lapse in concentration and communication proved costly.

But they responded well as Peel pounced on a fumble to race in for his hat-trick before captain Mickey Blackey got in on the act after crashing through two tackles to score.

Josh Dear's first try for three years sealed victory before Sam Redhead wriggled over after team-mates Tom McNamara, Hall and Tom Ransom had all been held up close to the line. Hall also added three more conversions during the second half.

Roosters return to action this Saturday with a trip to Bedford Tigers for another match which coach Paul Ashbridge believes will be crucial to their title aspirations.

He said: "We had identified these two away games as being defining matches in the season.

"It was good to come away from North Herts with a win and we will have exactly the same aim against Bedford.

"We played well on Saturday. It was a good all-round performance from the guys in very hot conditions.

"It was a testing game and gave us the chance to size up Crusaders ahead of the Plate Final on July 11."

Roosters are two points clear of King's Lynn Black Knights at the top of the league standings.