THE Griffith Blacks under 17s have narrowly failed to defending their Southern Inland Rugby title after going down to archrivals Wagga Waratahs by three points at Conolly Park on Saturday.
Despite having enjoyed a perfect record over Waratahs during the regular season, Griffith was made to earn their spot in the decider the hard way, after the Wagga outfit defeated them in the first round of the finals.
Despite the hiccup team officials were confident of holding on to the trophy on the weekend, but a try to the home side with five minutes remaining sealed the win.
Despite being on the wrong side of the scoreline, Griffith co-coach Peter Starr said the side had achieved so much and were just outplayed by a well-trained Waratahs side.
"The key for our side is possession, because they really worry most teams when they get their hands on the ball," Starr said.
"The forwards worked as a real unit to try and give them the ball in the second half.
"But I'm unbelievably proud, because Waratahs trained together three times a week, and we weren't the best trainers really and we'd won games with maybe as little as 13 players on the field at any one time.
"They were a real team unit at the end of the season and they're such a good bunch of characters."
Buoyed by the hometown support, Waratahs jumped out to a handy lead after crossing twice, with Griffith keeping it close by crossing just before half-time to have a chance heading into the sheds.
The Blacks lifted another gear after half-time, but Wagga employed a smart game plan to starve Griffith of possession, denying the electric backline almost any chance of attack.
"They were in the game right up until the final few minutes when they got a try after sustained pressure on our line for about 10 minutes an they went in," Starr said of Waratahs' last try.
Despite the loss, David Tuniseli, Patula Matora, David Beecher and winger Harris Uin all starred for Griffith in their narrow loss.
With half of the side being too old for the under 17s competition in 2013, Starr said the overall depth of the senior sides will be improved greatly.
"The ones that are over-age we are looking forward to them in the senior grades because they're going to be such an asset to the club for their attitude and their skill," he said.