Otumoetai Eels Premier's season came to an end at Resthills Park, Hamilton in the Cross Country Rentals Wai-Coa-Bay championship semifinal on Saturday.
On a soft and rain-affected ground the Eels went down 22-8 to a clinical Hamilton City Tigers in front of a huge crowd.
After a 10 minute arm wrestle, hooker Tane Leef opened the scoring by scooting clear to touch down for the Eels to give an early 4-0 lead.
Tigers came storming back with a superbly angled run from left centre Vaughan Calcinai to score near the posts which he converted to take a 6-4 lead. Tigers then grabbed a try close to halftime with a well timed pass from fullback Aron Jolley to Timo Brooky who raced away in the corner to dot down.
At 10-4 down the Eels came storming back in the second half actually getting the better of the Tigers over the next 20 minutes.
But two contentious referee's calls wiped out what looked like two well executed tries by the Eels.
Calcinai kicked a penalty from ill discipline through frustration by the Eels to take a 12-4 lead.
The Eels came back strong again but a spilled ball deep into Tigers territory saw Calcinai sprint away then a spilled ball close to the the Eels line gave Tigers half Te Puhi Rudolph an easy try to put the game beyond doubt.
Hard working Josh Allen scored a late try for the Eels but the game was already dead and gone.
For the Eels Josh Weeden was his usual self, tackling everything that came at him and but for a few unlucky bounces away from his deft kicks, his team mates could have changed the game completely had they held on to the ball.
Hooker Tane Leef was also in the thick of things and was rewarded with his 20th try of the season.
In the other semifinal in Tokoroa, Pacific Sharks defeated Taniwharau in a 10-8 thriller with their reserves also eliminating Taniwharau 2nds 20-16.
Across in Rotorua the Eels reserves also lost to Rotorua Central Lions 42-22 after the game was close at 22-24 with 15 minutes to go.
In Kawerau, Taneatua Warriors eventually ran over Putauaki Stags 32-12 to qualify for the Division 1 championship against Mangakino this Saturday.
All finals to be played at Hamilton City Tigers Resthills Park as top qualifier of the premier grade.