THERE is an old saying that the worst place to lose in a cup is the semi-final.
Hartlepool Rovers Under 17s would doubtless not be disagree with that assessment.
Rovers magical run in the RFU National U17 Bowl ended yesterday with a four tries to two defeat by Shrewsbury at Doncaster in the last-four tie.
Rovers coach Carl Robinson told SportMail he was “proud” of his squad who had come within 70 minutes of taking the club to a national final.
“I am not disappointed, not at all,” he said. “The lads are gutted but I am over the moon with what we have achieved.
“A little club like Hartlepool Rovers getting to a national semi-final is brilliant.
“We may have fallen at the last hurdle, but that’s life, things don’t always go your way.
“I am so proud of these lads but we now need to dust ourselves down and go again.”
Indeed they do because next Sunday they are contesting the Durham U17 county final next Sunday at Brinkburn against Darlington.
And if they repeat the effort they showed at Castle Park then they will have every chance of ending the season with more silverware after clinching the northern bowl on Easter Sunday.
You would have to say the better side on the day won.
The Shews pack had the edge, particularly in the scrums, and in centres Joe Collins and Colin Dixon they had two outstanding runners who were a handful throughout, making significant ground numerous times.
But it has to be said Rovers did not always have the rub of the green.
Before they even got to Doncaster they suffered the blow of losing influential flanker Liam Armstrong while powerful runner Jamie Montgomery, the scorer of their opening try, was forced off early in the second half.
They were denied a “try” early on when Jack Gunn dived over only for the assistant referee to rule he’d been forced into touch.
And Shrewsbury’s decisive third try, while brilliantly finished, had more than a slice of good fortune, and near the death sub winger Calum Jones wasn’t far away from a try which would have brought them back to within a score of the midlands champs.
But there were no excuses from Robinson.
“A couple of things didn’t go our way but that’s how it goes sometimes,” he said.
“We didn’t have Liam, who’s a good player, but I have confidence and belief in the whole squad.
“We never buckled at all. Even when they went 19-7 up, we never gave in. They gave it everything and, as a coach, you can’t ask for any more than that.”
FULL STORY IN MONDAY’S MAIL ...