PLAYER-COACH Carl Forster has been so proud of the efforts that saw his North Wales Crusaders team go close to securing promotion to the Championship.

A hat-trick of away triumphs - at Workington, Oldham and Hunslet - saw Crusaders reach the grand final of the League 1 play-offs, where they lost out 18-6 versus Doncaster.

Asked if he was proud of his players, Forster told the club’s website: “That word doesn’t even justify it.

“We’ve had a month worth of underdog stuff and we’ve rewritten the script, but today was probably just one step too far.

“You’ve only got to look at Donny’s side, it’s an absolute ridiculous team and the fact that we hung in there for as long as we did and ultimately the better team won on the day.

“But we can’t take away our achievements of what we have done this year.

“Up against all odds and we’ve come up one short.”

Mahe Fonua’s try and a couple of successful kicks from Connor Robinson had Doncaster 8-0 ahead at the interval.

Loui McConnell’s converted try with 13 minutes remaining looked to have sealed the deal, however never-say-die Crusaders gave their fans something to cheer when Toby Hughes grabbed a try that was converted by Leon Hayes.

But Sam Smeaton’s 76th minute try made sure Doncaster had the final word.

Crusaders’ fans were out in force at the Keepmoat Stadium and Forster said: “They’re the people I’m gutted for.

“We wanted to bring this home for them, let them have their day in the sun.

“I know we’ve not let them down, but ultimately we fell short.

“It would have been nice to bring it home for them, but the support’s always been there and, obviously, the last few weeks, it’s just intensified and every game’s felt like a home game and today was no different.”

Crusaders’ run in the play-offs opened with a 26-10 success at Workington and they followed this up with a thrilling 13-12 comeback triumph at Oldham.

In the semi-finals, Cole Oakley’s late try put the seal on a superb 25-18 outcome at league runners-up Hunslet.

It will soon be time to start preparing for the 2024 campaign and Forster added: “Obviously, (for) some lads this might be their last game for the club.

“Obviously attention now turns to recruitment, retention.

“It’s always hard when you don’t know what league you’re going to be in until today.”

The future is looking bright, though, and Forster said: “The next few weeks will obviously define that kind of stuff and hopefully, if we can keep this group together, the sky’s the limit and the things we’re doing off the field as a club and obviously another year of recruitment on my behalf, trying to make this squad even more so of my own, touch wood.

“But we might rebuild.

“We don’t know that until the next couple of weeks, but we’ll think about that in a few days.”