Portsmouth Dreadnoughts were left with mixed emotions after losing the BAFA National League SFC division two play-off final but still gaining promotion.
The Hooks Lane outfit will play in the SFC division one south next season after their best campaign to date.
Luke Head-Rapson’s side lost 24-7 to Hertfordshire Cheetahs in the play-off final in Leicester.
The head coach said he was gutted at the result but was proud of the team and their impressive season.
‘We would have been good enough to win on most days but on that day Hertfordshire were just better than us,’ said Head-Rapson.
‘I feel like we didn’t play to our full capability and we made a few key mistakes.
‘We couldn’t score when necessary and couldn’t stop them from scoring.
‘We gave a decent performance but they gave a better one.
‘It hurts to lose but we can’t let that take away from what we have accomplished this season.
‘We have got promoted to division one and for us to win as many games as we did was incredible.
‘I am immensely proud.’
The Dreadnoughts faced an uphill struggle from the beginning of the play-off final when Hertfordshire scored a touchdown on their first drive.
Portsmouth missed the chance to reduce the deficit when their field goal effort in the second quarter went wide.
An interception by the Cheetahs saw them extend their lead after the break with a run downfield.
With the game in the final quarter, the Dreadnoughts got their first points after running the ball into the endzone and converting the extra point.
But two Hertfordshire touchdowns – the second of which came via an interception – put the game to bed.
Head-Rapson said the Dreadnoughts exceeded his expectations after reaching the play-off final.
He added: ‘I was hoping to get promoted after five years, so to do it in three is really positive.
‘We have learnt a lot this season. There are things we need to work on like preparation before games.
‘We have also learnt how to win under pressure. We came back twice this season in games which I was impressed with.
‘Aldo Navaro, Jake Hancock and Lloyd Scott were incredible all season for the defence as were Joe Clulow, Tom Bonser and Matt Marriott.
‘On offence, Jake Smith and Ben Myers were impressive. Meyers was also good on special teams.’
The Dreadnoughts are now looking ahead to next year and the challenges division one will bring.
‘I am excited and nervous about division one,’ Head-Rapson said.
‘It will be tough because every team will be prepared with great athletes.
‘Our goal is to stay up. We need to secure our place and build for the future.’