Saturday was a must-win affair for the Merimbula-Pambula Bulldogs under 16s when they travelled to Narooma to take on the Devils.
The winner would take home a semi-final berth, while the loser would be out of the finals running.
Unfortunately for the visiting squad it wasn’t meant to be, going down to Narooma 24-20.
Bulldogs coach Bernie Maher said training had been “excellent during the week and the boys were ready to give their best” ahead of the game.
A few standout performances had the Bulldogs staying in touch as both teams scored early tries.
“Jordan Pilgrim was playing one of his best games of the season,” Maher said.
“[He] was setting up play and creating havoc out wide where he set up a try for Billy Donnean.”
He had a repeat performance later in the half to get Bryce Christie over the try line.
Unfortunately, by half-time Narooma had plenty of sting in its attack to lead 14-8.
“The forwards were playing well and had to keep going forward in the second half to lay a platform for the back line,” Maher said.
The enthusiasm as play returned paid dividends for the ’Dogs as Kye Lygon opened the second half scoring early.
Then a solo-effort from Pilgrim saw him score a try to put the visitors in front for the first time.
The score settled at 20-14 in favour of the Bulldogs, and it was shaping to be a tense final 20 minutes.
Maher said the intensity on the field reached a new high.
“Both teams were hitting each other with everything, bar the kitchen sink and the hits were taking effect on the boys from both sides,” he said.
Unfortunately, some late injuries took a toll on the Bulldogs and Narooma was able to sneak in two late tries to take the game 24-20.
Maher said the squad would have made an excellent shot at the semi-finals had the game gone their way.
“I am so proud of these boys.
“They have played their hearts out again, coming up just short.
“I thought they could have given it a real shot if they had the chance, but sometimes the bounce of the ball does not go your way,” he said.
Constant improvement in the line-up over the season has been a highlight for the proud coach.
“The boys should be very proud of their efforts this year, it has been a real pleasure to coach them and watching them get better with each game.”
Maher and the team also thanked players from the under 14s who stepped up for the game, while the 16s maintained a “never say die” attitude.
“It takes a lot of guts to play the way you did this year with the bare minimum and face up to your opponents as we have,” Maher said.
“The club, your parents and coaching staff are very proud of you all.”