THEY couldn't hold on after making a whirlwind start to their Group 10 Junior Rugby League under 15s grand final against Cowra on Saturday, but the Bathurst Panthers certainly put up almighty fight.
It was why Panthers coach Mick Carter said his players deserved to feel proud walking off Jack Arrow Oval after a 14-12 loss to the Magpies.
"They certainly put in a big effort, I'm proud of every single one of them," he said.
"They defended awesome, they didn't leave anything out there, they gave it their all for the whole game.
"I am immensely proud of the boys. It has been a massive effort from them all year, they've been going since early February, so they should all hold their heads up really high."
While defending premiers Cowra had beaten Panthers 22-12 in the major semi-final a fortnight earlier, Saturday's decider was a much closer affair in testing, windy conditions.
Panthers struck the first blow of the under 15s grand final after just 30 seconds and when a second try followed soon after, the margin stood at 8-0.
Carter's side maintained that advantage to the break as his side looked a strong chance of avenging their grand final defeat at the hands of the Magpies 12 months earlier.
But it was not to be.
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"The second half we didn't start real well, we dropped it off the kick-off and that sort of threw us into a little bit of a spiral," Carter said.
"After they scored to go in front there wasn't a lot of time left. We had still another couple of opportunities, but dropped balls and wrong options and what-not.
"Also it didn't help the boys being on the back end of a massive penalty count against them."
Cowra crossed twice in the first 10 minutes after play resumed - talented five-eighth Leroy Murray nabbing one of them - to draw level at 8-all.
While Panthers lifted to produce a third try which nosed them ahead by four, a tick over six minutes later Cowra came up with the match-winning play.
Harry Thuaux scored next to the posts to not only make it 12-all, but give Murray an easy conversion attempt in the blustery conditions. He nailed it to put Cowra ahead.
Though Panthers threw plenty at Cowra in the seven minutes which remained, they were unable to find another four-pointer to add to those that fullback Keegan Clayton, five-eighth Cooper Brien and centre Jesse Limon had scored earlier.
Magpies second-rower Jacob Haeata was named man of the match.
Carter thanked those who supported his under 15s team on grand final day and is already looking ahead to season 2020.
"It was great to see a lot of parents and our junior players get down there and rally behind them. A lot of players and committee from the senior club were also down there supporting them," he said.
"It was still a good day, the result at the end hurt and was disappointing, but there's always near year and we'll go again."