Last-gasp Sudbury try denies St Ives a place in the Conference East play-off final

Sudbury Gladiators 28 St Ives Roosters 24

A HERCULEAN effort almost saw the Roosters pull off a big shock in their Conference East play-off semi-final at Sudbury on Saturday - but instead they suffered last-minute heartbreak.

They had to go into battle against the Gladiators with only 12 men - one short - having struggled to raise a side.

Roosters also had to start the game with 11 men after Jim Lewsham - who mistakenly thought the game was being staged at St Ives - subsequently arrived late.

And although they shed blood, sweat and tears for the cause, Roosters' heroic performance ultimately proved in vain.

Proud director of coaching Ian Hill said: "Our players were magnificent.

"They also had to put up with so much intimidation and foul play from Sudbury.

"I'm glad that none of them picked up any serious injuries."

Hill was referring to Sudbury, a Parachute Army Regiment side, who chose to adopt bully-boy tactics from the outset, which paved way for a bruising encounter and a game littered with yellow cards for the hosts.

Things stated well for St Ives as pressure in the Sudbury half, due to repeated penalties being given against them, resulted in Roosters' assistant coach Andy Dean crashing over the line from close range on five minutes.

But the Gladiators hit back two minutes later to score a converted try from a break in the middle of the pitch and then repeated the trick on 22 minutes to extend their lead.

Then, straight from the kick-off, Lewsham moved wide for Jake Peattie to outpace the home defence to score in the corner.

Controversy then surrounded the Gladiators' third try soon after, scored after the Roosters felt the referee had ignored a clear and deliberate elbow on David Sykes.

On the stroke of half time, good interplay between Michael Drake and Peattie created space for Josh Taylor to score in the corner to reduce the Roosters' deficit to 18-12 at the break.

Into the second half and Roosters levelled matters, courtesy of a fine try from Charles Paxton, who broke the Sudbury defence to score under the posts with Drake converting.

Then, 10 minutes later, the Roosters took the lead for the first time in the game when Drake ducked what looked like a Sudbury fist thrown in his direction to touch down, before converting his own score to put the visitors 24-18 up.

Gladiators levelled the scores with a converted try 10 minutes from time as the Roosters lost the ball from a high kick.

And, with extra-time looming, Sudbury broke through the resistance of St Ives, who were camped on their own line, with the final score of the game to deny Roosters a place in the play-off final.

The drama wasn't finished there though, with a Sudbury player red-carded after the final whistle had blown for punching a Roosters player in the back of the head.