SEDGLEY Tigers fell at the final hurdle in their bid to win promotion back to National League One, writes Ben Collins.

The Tigers were hoping to earn a return to English rugby's third tier, three years after slipping into National League Two North.

But Geoff Roberts' men fell to a 24-0 defeat at National Two South runners-up Old Albanians in Saturday's play-off, missing out on a first promotion in 12 years.

“A 24-0 scoreline didn't reflect how the game went,” said team manager Roberts. “It was a lot tighter than that.

“Having said that, they had done their homework on us and did a successful job on shutting us down.

“We didn't play that well. We spilled the ball a bit and it was a physical game.

"They said it was the most physical game they've played all season.

“So unfortunately we didn't quite make it, but I feel it's still been a good season.”

Old Albanians earned home advantage in the battle of the National Two runners-up after finishing the season with 128 points, compared with Sedgley's 108.

That gave the St Albans-based side the upper hand as they bid to made an immediate return to National League One after being relegated last year.

OA, as they call themselves, fielded a strong side that boasted England Under-20s player Max Malins.

The 19-year-old full-back joined OA on a dual-registration deal from Saracens and capped a fine spell with them by scoring 19 of their points in Saturday's decider.

Despite missing two early penalties, Malins made it third-time lucky to open the scoring on 12 minutes.

Sedgley kicker Steve Collins had missed one penalty attempt himself before Tigers opted to go for a try rather than kicking for the posts, and it was a decision they rued as moments later another Malins penalty made it 6-0.

The Tigers' injury curse then struck again as Bob Birtwell was stretchered off just before half time with what could be a torn cruciate ligament in his knee.

And before Sedgley had managed to regroup, the hosts created a gap for Malins to score under the posts and convert to claim a 13-0 lead at the break.

The Tigers stuck to their task in the second half but could not make any inroads and Malins kicked another penalty to make it 16-0.

And OA secured victory as Nick Foster dived over with five minutes left before Malins struck a late penalty.

“It was a really tight first half,” Roberts added. “At one stage we tried to go for the corner rather than kicking a penalty and we didn't score from it.

“Then shortly afterwards they were awarded another penalty and scored it to lead 6-0 so that didn't help.

“With three minutes to hal -time it was still 6-0 and I was fairly comfortable with that, but then disaster struck.

“Bob had to be carried off and before we managed to get patched up they scored a try, so instead of going in at 6-0 it was 13-0, and that made a big difference.”