Ag College fell short of a fairytale end to a testing season.
Despite taking a massive leap forward this, all while trying to come to grips with the sudden death of teammate Andy Stanham last month, Aggies couldn’t cause a boilover in the Southern Inland grand final on Saturday.
Outplayed in the first half, two quick tries gave them a sniff midway through the second half.
However Waratahs slammed the door on that, scoring four tries in the last 17 minutes to take a 54-12 victory at Conolly Rugby Complex.
Coach Will Mitchell rued not being able to step up when things started to fall their way.
“We probably weren’t smart enough when we needed to be and didn’t win the big moments unfortunately,” Mitchell said.
“There was no lack of ticker from our boys, they tried really hard, put their bodies in a lot of spots and there was a lot of blood split, but we just fell a bit short in terms of our decision making.”
Ag College trailed 19-0 at half-time and went further behind when Corey Toole scored in the first minute of the second half.
They weren’t helped by the early loss of outside centre Lochie Ramm.
But the university side never dropped their heads.
Instead they stormed back into the contest with quick tries to Mike van Diggelen and Jock Ward and looked set to give Waratahs a real run for their money.
However almost as quickly as the comeback gathered momentum it went away as Waratahs hit back to extinguish their chance.
“Those big moments we didn’t win,” Mitchell said.
“There was a time there we were pressing but weren’t able to get over the line and that is a credit to Waratahs.
“They are a great side and everyone talks about their attack and how many points they score, but no one talks about their defence and how solid they are defensively.
“They deserve it and have been the top dogs all year.”
Despite coming off second best on the biggest day of the year, Mitchell is proud of what his team has achieved.
Languishing mid table at the halfway point of the season they went on a seven-game winning streak leading into the finals with Waratahs the only team to get the better of him since May.
Mitchell hopes they can use their finals experience to take it to the next level next season.
“Hopefully these young guys have that belief that they can stick it with the best,” he said.
“They will only get better if they stick together.
“It is exciting and these guys are only scratching the surface of their potential.”