North Herts Crusaders were just too strong for St Ives Roosters when the St Ivo Outdoor Centre-based rugby league side lost their East of England Grand Final 63-30 in Bedfordshire on Saturday.
Having won the London & South East Plate already this season, by beating Sussex Merlins in a brilliant London final, Roosters went to Bedford in a positive frame of mind – but in an open and attacking game, it was their cross-border opponents who took the honours and the Conference East title.
Coach Paul Ashbridge is still a proud man, however. He told The Hunts Post: “For a neutral supporter the game was end to end and fantastic rugby. But a few decisions and missed tackles went against us and in the end that proved crucial.
“But that’s just ifs and buts. If, at the start of the season, with a lot of new players playing in their first ever season, if you had said to me that we would win the league leaders’ shield and the Plate competition, I would have bitten your hand off.
“I’m so proud of the way every player, even those selected for the Final, has played this season.
“We will go from strength to strength and we will win the East Grand Final.”
It was an ultimately disappointing end to what was one of the most successful Roosters season ever. Roosters were one win away from celebrating an almost faultless campaign.
They won their first seven games – before a slight blip and two defeats – and had beaten North Herts to the top of the East Conference table before the season went into overtime.
In the title-deciding play-off campaign St Ives beat Bury Titans in their semi with the Crusaders beating Bedford on the same day. That set up Saturday’s Grand Final.