BANBURY'S heart-breaking end to the season was finally complete on Saturday when they lost the Midlands 3 East play-off to Ilkeston Elks, who snatched a 24-21 victory with a try 90 seconds from time.

The Oxon club, who missed out on automatic promotion from Division 3 East South by the narrowest of margins, could hardly believe their misfortune.

The Bulls had turned to play up the slope and against a strong wind, trailing 17-7 at half-time, but had snatched the initiative to dominate the second period.

With nine minutes to go, they had taken a 21-17 lead, but a final desperate surge by the home side saw a quickly-taken tap penalty on the Bulls 22 worked out wide for a converted try that shattered the visitors.

The Derbyshire hosts, who moved the ball around smartly, dictated the first half and took a 12-point lead through their lively back division.

Only tremendous cover tackles from Tony Hurst, centre Andy Collett and wing Adam Walsh prevented any further tries.

Having weathered this storm, Banbury clawed their way back with a first senior try from prop Andy Gilbert, following good play by centre James Taylor and fly half Simon Purnell.

Full back Peter Flemming added the conversion, but Banbury crucially, conceded a third try just before the break.

The Bulls forwards took charge after the break and tries came from Matt McNally and Andy Collett.

With Purnell converting both and adding a penalty, the Bulls were within touching distance of promotion.

But Ilkeston had the final say to break Banbury's hearts.