The Western Heights 1st XV came excruciatingly close to retaining the Bethlehem Coachlines Secondary Schools division one title on Saturday, with a 19 -18 loss to Bethlehem's Te Wharekura O Mauao.
Held at Mt Maunganui's Blake Park, Western Heights High School's coach Steve Smith said their game plan didn't quite go as hoped.
"Initially what our plan was, they did to us. We couldn't get our hands on the ball and gave the game back in terms of possession.
Smith said the team were pretty down following the result.
"It's a bit raw. The game was pretty close. We got behind early, and were behind 14 - 3 at the break. In the end we ran out of time.
"They [Western Heights] haven't lost many games this season. It's the last game so there's nothing you can do next week."
At half-time his message to the squad has been simple.
"Believe in yourself and the game plan."
A missed conversion with seven minutes to go, and Mauao holding tightly on to their lead in the remaining time, meant the defending champions could not get back in front.
Smith said fullback Brodie Wood played well and Daniel Ernst was the forward player of the day.
Western Heights went into the game missing two players but Smith said that didn't particularly impact on the result.
"A little bit but we don't make any excuses. We went into the game as a competitive side."
The other two coaches Dyllon Pederson and Denton Grimes were an integral part of the season, he said.
"They've done a good job. We worked well together as a team."
Despite the loss, the 1st XV also have an upcoming trip to Japan where they were invited by the city of Beppu. They will play several games and attend coaching clinics.