Bridlington director of rugby Rich Girking said losing the Yorkshire Shield final in extra time was the worst feeling of his rugby career.
His side looked on course to lift the trophy for the second time in four years, as they led 14-7 as the match went into added time.
But in the 87th minute of the tie, Bradford Salem grabbed a converted try, to take the game to extra time, and the West Yorkshire side went on to score a golden try in the extra 10 minutes.
Girking, who is stepping down from his position in charge of Bridlington’s first team, said: “It’s the worst way to lose.
“I have never felt so bad in my whole experience as a player or a coach. I have never felt so dejected.
“It was absolutely gut-wrenching to concede that equalising try and after that we were deflated.
“We tried to pick the lads up before extra time but it was so difficult to get them motivated after that.
“They were dead on their feet and to be dealt such a crushing blow, it was almost an impossible job after that.”
Bradford Salem may have played in a division below Bridlington, but they had won their league title and remained unbeaten all season.
They had also beaten a number of Yorkshire One sides on their way to the final, so Bridlington were not overwhelming favourites for the final at Hull Ionians ground.
But Girking was delighted with his side’s efforts.
“We were fantastic to a man. I have not seen such a committed performance all season. The work-rate and tackling were above and beyond anything I have seen.
“We deserved to win. The end result was a real kick in the teeth. It was a good hour or so before anyone wanted to say anything.”
Bradford kicked off the encounter, but it was Bridlington with the early pressure, although they were pushed back from time to time as Bradford made good use of the wind with long clearance kicks.
Bridlington progressed up field, and a break by the forwards deep in Bradford’s 22 gave Callum Cappleman a half chance, but driven on by the rest of the forwards, was held up over the line.
From the resultant scrum, James Thompson picked and drove at the line, with the rest of the forwards in support. Bradford killing the ball gave Bridlington a good chance to open the scoring, but the penalty kick sailed wide of the posts.
Salem began to get some momentum after 20 minutes of play. Using their forwards to pick and drive, and driving mauls off lineouts, finally they released the backs, who fired the ball along the back line to score a try in the corner, despite the efforts of the Bridlington backs as they scrambled across to cover.
It was successfully converted to put them seven points ahead.
Bridlington continued to pressure from the restart, having greater possession, but once more at crucial times, Bradford were able to use the wind with long clearance kicks.
Undeterred, Bridlington fought back time and again and eventually from a scrum five meters out, the forwards controlled the scrum as they drove Bradford back over their line, for James Thompson to drop on the ball for a great forward’s try, which was converted by Jack Arthur.
Bradford ended the half with a great drive towards the Bridlington try line, but resilient defence kept them out until the half time whistle sounded.
Bridlington started the second half with a long kick off to Bradford, forcing them backwards, Bradford dug in and bided their time, before running the ball back at Bridlington.
The kicking boots from both sides seemed to appear as each side opted to kick back and forth, with neither side really getting the upper hand. Then from a scrum on Bradford’s 10 metre line they released their backs, but a loose passed was picked up by Regan Stirk who raced in from the halfway line, to score a try, to put Bridlington 14-7 ahead.
Both teams fought hard for the remainder of the game, getting close to scoring but losing out to two good sets of defences.
Bradford had the final attack of the game, then after seven minutes of injury time, and with the last play of the game, from a scrum just inside Bridlington’s 22, Bradford released the backs who were able to drive over the line to score a converted try.
It was then announced that extra time would be 10 minutes each way, with a golden points rule, which meant that the team who scored any points first would be victorious.
Bridlington had to kick off the first period of extra time, into the wind. Bradford secured the ball, and made their way back up the park, using the forwards,
The Dukes Park men managed to get their hands on the ball, releasing Stirk down the touch line, but he was forced into touch, giving Bradford a lineout, just inside their half.
From here they caught and drove up field before releasing the backs, and quick hands along the line saw the winger score a golden try out by the corner flag to end the game.
Girking told the Free Press: “We had such a good crowd with us and they gave us great support. Everyone deserved a lot better but the fairytale wasn’t to be.
“Bradford Salem were a good side. They had good players among them and we managed to nullify the players who we had identified as their strengths.
“There was lots of passionate tackling and a lot of the tackling was a bit ferocious so it was a good game.
“For the last 20 minutes it was end-to-end stuff. We had a couple of chances to put the game to bed, although over the course of the game, they probably had the better chances.
“We made a few wrong options but there was one definite knock-on where we should have been given a penalty try, or there should have been a sin-binning for the perpetrator.
“Some of the referee’s decisions were really frustrating.
“We had defended so well in normal time and it was the eighth minute of injury time when they scored so you can see why we were upset.
“To have come back and win the game from there would have been a massive achievement.
“But I couldn’t have asked for any more from the lads,they didn’t leave anything on the pitch.”
Bridlington were without top scorer Will Davies, as well as a number of other first-team regulars such as Otis Floyd, Callum Sanderson and Siphesihle Ngubane.
On the other hand, Bradford fielded England international and Saracens and Leeds Tykes star Dan Scarborough in their backs.
Girking said: “I wouldn’t have picked a different team. I spent Sunday night reflecting on substitutions I had made but you make your decisions and hope they are right.
“You live and die by your choices and I think we made a lot of the right ones.
“We were just unlucky.”
The final marked the end of an era for Bridlington.
As well as Girking’s departure, a number of players were likely to have been making their final appearances for the club.
Mark Floyd played for the full 80-plus minutes and Jamie Muru gave an hour-long cameo at stand-off, but are hanging up their boots, while PJ Freeman may not return to play in the UK next season.
“It would have been great to win it for these guys,” said Girking.
“I understand how professional managers get stressed out. It was bad enough losing a Yorkshire Shield final.”
Girking thanked everybody who has been involved with the club this season, including captains, team managers and coaches, sponsors and directors.
“Whoever takes over from me has got a good set of lads to work with and a good structure at the club to move it forward,” he said.