Parramatta Rugby Club bowed out of the Shute Shield finals on the weekend following their 49-12 defeat by Manly.
The preliminary final was always going to be a tough test for the Two Blues, who were playing against one of the competition heavyweights and making their first finals appearance in 21 years.
Despite the one-sided scoreline, Parramatta remained competitive for the bulk of the first half and were unlucky not to add more points with several key missed opportunities.
Manly started the game strongly and skipped to an early 14-point lead.
Parramatta responded and were pressuring for a try of their own when one of their forwards slipped, allowing Manly to score against the run of play.
Two Blues general manager Michael Ball believes that was the turning point.
‘‘We were coming back into the game at that point,’’ Ball said.
‘‘Had we held them and scored ourselves the half-time lead of 28-5 would’ve been closer.’’
Manly made their inexperienced opponents pay and rounded out the game with tries to Kotoni Ale, Caydern Neville and Brian Sefania.
Ball was adamant the game was ‘‘still a step in the right direction’’ having beaten the odds to reach the finals.
‘‘Two years ago our own governing body was contemplating kicking us out of the competition,’’ Ball said.
‘‘And now we’ve qualified for the finals with the youngest team in the competition and look strong for next season.’’
After Sunday’s game in Coogee the team went back to Merrylands RSL Club where they were greeted by a guard of honour.
Players continued partying for Mad Monday celebrations at their home ground on Monday.
‘‘We’re really proud of the team and we’ve ticked off the first target in our five-year plan to make the finals,’’ Ball said.
‘‘We’ll be looking at going further into the competition next year and hopefully we can win the trophy ourselves in four to five years time.’’