It was a case of what might have been for director of rugby Mark Aston, as Sheffield Eagles squandered a useful lead in their Championship Shield final against Toulouse.
The Eagles were heading into half-time in full command, but a brace of tries just before and after the interval all but ended their chances of causing a shock in the south of France.
The Eagles conceded a raft of points inside the final quarter as they slipped to their second consecutive final defeat, much to the frustration of Aston, who couldn’t have asked more from his side in the opening 35 minutes.
“The boys for 35 minutes were great,” Aston told The Star.
“They were outstanding. Their enthusiasm, commitment, passion and pride - all the things we spoke about were there.
“We played the game in the right areas, and we were full value for our 10 point lead at the time.
“Then we ran out of ideas, we weren’t disciplined enough, and we went away from the game plan. In finals you have to be good for 80 minutes, and we weren’t.
“Toulouse are a team that will challenge you, and they did.
“We should have gone in at half-time in front, but we found ourselves two points behind which was frustrating.”
Aston singled out the spell just prior and just after the half-time hooter as the crucial turning point in the final, whilst he also touched upon long-term deficiencies which have blight their 2017 campaign.
“The lads had a dig, but then the game was lost just before and just after half-time,” he added.
“The preparation was good, but we didn’t compete long enough and that was the story of the season for us - the inconsistency.
“We didn’t complete the first two sets after the interval and we paid the price. We were still in it at 24-10, but we didn’t execute the game plan to the levels that we needed to, and that meant we were just doing things that were off the cuff. That wasn’t working for us. I am frustrated because I honestly believed that we could win the game.
“They had a couple of lucky breaks in the first-half and when you get a good bounce of the ball then the momentum can swing. It is then how you handle it, and we didn’t cope well in that period. It was certainly frustrating because I honestly thought we would win.”