Ilkeston’s hopes of promotion to the National League ended in heartbreaking fashion on Saturday as hosts Worcester won the Midlands One play-off final 27-17 after extra-time.
It was a thrilling game that Ilkeston led 17-6 at half-time only for Wanderers to fight back and seal the promotion spot.
Elks kicked off with the slope and a strong wind advantage and made a great start with Adam Corcoran, Chris Tipton and Steve Quinn all carrying well, and when the ball was recycled and moved right to Greg Taylor he rounded his man and scored after five minutes.
Joel Haigh converted well from the touchline to give Elks the perfect start.
Worcester narrowed the gap to 3-7 with a penalty two minutes later, and as expected both sides were fully committed with some huge tackles being made.
But it was Ilkeston who would score next when Quinn stole a Worcester line out and the ball was moved right, quickly recycled and popped up to Quinn again who found a huge gap in the defence to run in the Elks’ second try after 13 minutes, Haigh converting to make it 3-14
Worcester missed a good drop goal opportunity on 25 minutes and it proved costly moments later as an Ilkeston penalty was kicked by Haigh to stretch the lead to 17-3.
The Elks then suffered a blow when Quinn was forced off with a knee injury, replaced by Jonathan Down.
And after some good opportunities to stretch the lead weren’t taken, Worcester pulled some more points back on the stroke of half-time when Ilkeston were penalised and the penalty was converted.
Worcester started the second-half with the wind and slope now in their favour and were soon on the attack.
Elks were still giving away penalties and another one was converted on 43 minutes to make it 9-17
Another penalty was missed four minutes later, but the Elks were working hard to make any headway with Down and Greg Taylor linking well to carry play into the opposition half.
Then, after Worcester earned another penalty which saw the referee lose patience and sin bin Ryan Mills, it was converted to reduce the gap to 12-17.
Elks then had their best chance of the second-half with the Taylor brothers and Alex Ayres linking well and seeming likely to score but were just in touch.
But extra-time was forced thanks to a try on 68 minutes, when Worcester caught a line-out and drove well to force their way over, the conversion levelling the scores at 17-17.
Ten minutes each way would follow to decide the winner, and ultimately Worcester were the stronger side and despite a great effort from Ilkeston, the defence could not be breached.
Worcester kicked a penalty in the first period of extra-time to take a 20-17 lead, and they stretched clear in the second period with a converted try to make it 27-17 and wrap up the victory.
Worcester deserved to win on the day but the Elks put in a fantastic effort although too many conceded penalties were eventually to be their downfall.