DESPITE missing out on a Wembley final by an agonisingly small margin, Bridgewater High School’s year seven rugby league team are holding their heads high.

They were beaten 12-8 by Wade Deacon High School of Widnes in the semi-finals of the Champion Schools tournament this afternoon.

It brought to an end a seven-game unbeaten run in the tournament that has seen them score 254 points and concede just 24.

That followed the year 11 team’s golden-point defeat to Castleford Academy in their last-four contest in the same competition.

However, the fact that this is Bridgewater’s first year of playing rugby league as a school puts both teams’ achievements into context.

Mark Smith, the year seven team’s head coach, admits his players were devastated at missing out on the chance to play at the national stadium in the curtain-raiser to the Challenge Cup Final on August 25, but that they were already talking about coming back stronger next year.

“I’m so proud of them. They have been unbelievable all season,” he said.

“Considering this is our first year in taking on rugby league, it is a phenomenal achievement by the boys.

“The lads have already said they can’t wait to get back at it next year.

“It won’t be the same carrot of getting to Wembley on the line, but it will still be a final at the end of the day and the chance to call ourselves national champions.

“I went to Bridgewater as a kid myself. I played union at school and league outside of school.

“To introduce rugby league into a predominantly union school is a massive achievement and we’re really looking to push it on next year.”

Bridgewater led 8-0 at half-time in today’s semi-final, which was played at Crosfields’ Hood Lane ground, thanks to two well-executed tries in either corner.

However, a rampaging long-range effort brought Wade Deacon back into it before a try on the back of several offloads put them ahead.

Bridgewater piled on the pressure late on, but they could not breach the Widnes school’s defence.

“In previous weeks when we’ve got into certain areas and got those chances, we’ve finished them,” Smith said.

“Today, we didn’t quite finish it.

“The Wade Deacon coach quite rightly said the better team lost the game. We just have to take it on the chin.

“I’m really proud of both teams, the year 7s and the year 11s.

“To have only lost two games as a school all year is a credit to the lads and a credit to the work they have done. I can’t fault any of them.

“We’re happy with the semi-finals this year. Next year, we’ll see what happens.”