Clinton Schifcofske insists the Crusaders can hold their heads high following their play-off heroics against Huddersfield Giants.
Crusaders’ second season in the top flight came to a dramatic end when they went down 18-12 to Huddersfield in the elimination play-offs.
Brian Noble’s men led 8-0 at half-time at the Galpharm Stadium thanks to an interception try by Rhys Hanbury, and Schifcofske, 35, kept them in the game with three penalties.
The Giants trailed for most of the match, which was heading for sudden-death extra time when hooker Danny Brough picked up a stray Crusaders’ pass and sent centre Leroy Cudjoe on a 50-metre sprint for the winning try.
It was a heart-breaking end to a match which the away side deserved to win and Schifcofske believes the players can be proud of their efforts.
“We were obviously disappointed after the final whistle,” he said. “But we will soon got over it.
“The fact that we were able to keep a team like Huddersfield Giants quiet for most of the game speaks for itself.
“We’re obviously disappointed, it was a game that got away from us in many respects, and it was there to be won.
“In the last month games against Hull FC and St Helens got away from us as well.
We have been a bit inconsistent at times this year, so hopefully we can improve on that next year.
“We lacked a bit of composure at times during the game, but we matched them up front and managed to subdue their backs for long periods. We try really hard, we work hard for each and we have proved a lot of people wrong this season.
“We have a good bunch of players here and we should all be really proud of our efforts this year. We’ve got one thing you can’t coach – team spirit – and hopefully we can use this year as a stepping-stone to greater things next season.”
During his post-match press conference, Crusaders head coach Brian Noble admitted that he thought his side were the better team on the day, and were unlucky not to come away from the Galpharm Stadium with a victory.
And that sentiment was echoed by State of Origin star Schifcofske, who scored eight of the Crusaders 12 points.
“Without a doubt we were the better team,” he said. “We had to play very well to get there. We are missing a few players – we lost Michael Witt towards the back end of the season and a few other guys. But we can be proud of our efforts. It has been a great season on the whole.
“It has been a magnificent season. Everyone involved with the club has put a lot of effort in and we look forward to next year. The fans were magnificent, it was like a home game for us and it really gave us a huge boost. They were singing and cheering from the first to the final whistle.”
Arguably the turning point of Saturday’s match was Jordan James’ sin binning with 12 minutes remaining. The Wales captain was yellow carded for a professional foul, meaning Crusaders had to play the latter stages with 12 men and Huddersfield were able to take clinch the victory during this time.
However, Schifcofske refused to blame his team mate for the loss, adding: “I don’t know if it was (a sin binning) to be honest.
“I don’t think you can start pointing at particular points of the game where it went wrong, it is a team effort at the end of the day. There were a few dodgy calls as well, but stuff like that happens in sport and you just have to get on with it.
“But it has been a great season. The people in Wrexham have welcomed us with open arms. Hopefully we can win a few early games next year and keep getting crowds of 6,000- 7,000 then that would be fantastic.
“The fans who showed up here today shows that rugby league has a very bright future in Wales.”
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