RUGBY UNION: Bashed, bruised and heartbroken the Yamba Buccaneers were left to ask what just happened after falling at the final hurdle in the Far North Coast's President's Cup competition.
From humble beginnings, Yamba had fought tooth and nail this season to scale the President's Cup mountain only to be booted from the peak by a dominant Evans River Killer Whales in the grand final on Saturday.
The Buccaneers were outmuscled, outplayed and outclassed by the Killer Whales in the 16-10 final.
Despite a lopsided penalty count against his side, Yamba co-coach Adrian Miller said there were no excuses for his side in what was a gripping decider.
"When we look back on the game we didn't play that well at all,” Miller said.
"While the scores were close all game, we were never truly in it. They played us out of that grand final.
"They did exactly what we expected them to. They played good 10-man rugby, they kept the ball in their forwards, the just picked and drove all afternoon and we didn't have an answer for it.”
After Yamba took a slim lead into the half-time break, Evans River dominated field position and possession in the second stanza as the Buccaneers toiled hard just to get hands on the ball.
"Every time we had the ball it seemed like we were under pressure, we did silly things with it,” Miller said.
"We didn't play to our strengths as a team, we rarely got the ball out to our strong outside backs ands maybe it might have been a different story if we had.
"You have to give Evans credit for executing their game plan the way they did.”
While Miller said the pain of the grand final loss was hard for his troops, there weremany positives they could take from the season.
"We all play so hard all year and train hard all year and for it to end like that - knowing we could have done more - just really sucks,” he said.
"You can only make so many excuses or try to find so many positives, but we lost at the big dance and that is our reality.
"But this has been a big year for the Buccs,” he said.
"The last couple of years the club has been on its knees struggling for numbers and struggling for success, so to come from where we were all the way to here is really massive.”
Miller thanked the tireless work of the club's committee and the undying support of fans for pushing the team all the way to the final this year.
He said there was always the prospect of next year.
"Hopefully we will have a fair few of this side back next season and there is nothing like a grand final loss to motivate you to go one better the next year,” he said.
SCORECARD: EVANS RIVER 19 (Connor Thornley try, Michael Miskle conversion, 4 penalty goals) def YAMBA 10 (Jordan Walker try, Jason James conversion, penalty goal)
Half Time: Yamba 10 - Evans River 9