St Ives Roosters half way to double after magnificent Plate win in London

ST Ives Roosters were crowned London & South East Plate champions on Saturday when they beat Sussex Merlins in the Olympic capital.

Seven years after they were heavily defeated by Blackpool in the final of the prestigious rugby league competition, Roosters swept aside the challenge of Sussex Merlins, beating their opponents 26-18 at the home of the London Scholars.

Director of rugby Ian Hill was understandably delighted, saying: “It was a really tough ‘old school’ game and we had a number of players carrying injuries in the second half – but nobody wanted to leave the pitch and the players battled on till the end.

“It was a fantastic effort by the players. Sussex were really tough opponents.

“Confidence has been a bit low after our two recent defeats but the players picked themselves up and put in a great display.”

Having won the first seven Conference East games of their season, Roosters were beaten twice in a row, first by lowly Milton Keynes Wolves, then by third-placed Bedford. But they had already booked their place in the Plate final and managed to come through the rough patch stillsecond in the table with a game in hand.

Sam Peel and Michael Drake were both injury concerns going into the big game and both failed fitness tests so Hill had some pre-match shuffling to do.

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But after just four minutes scrum half Stefan Galluchi settled the nerves when he exploited a gap in the Merlins’ defence and Ollie Bartlett raced on to a precise chip to score the first try which player-coach Paul Ashbridge converted for a 6-0 lead. Merlins hit back with a penalty conversion soon after.

After losing two more players to injuries – Bartlett and David Sykes, replacement Jack Peattie widened the gap with an unconverted try.

But the second half started badly for the Roosters when they conceded two early tries – and their lead was reduced to just four points. On 55 minutes Jamie Noble burst through the Merlins ranks to score a brilliant try with Ashbridge converted.However, Roosters were still shaky and their oppnoents took the lead for a short while before Tommy Newman found Noble with an impressive run and Adam Peel finished the move with a swallow dive into a corner.

Three minutes later man of the match Ashbridge scored a fantastic solo effort and added the extras himself. It was 28-16 and Roosters used all their experiences to see out the final ten minutes.

Now it’s all eye on the double. North Herts Crusaders moved above Roosters in the Conference East when they won their final game of the season on Saturday. But a win at home at St Ivo against Bury Titans this Saturday would mean St Ives are crowned Minor Premier Champions too.