IT is often said that lightning never strikes twice.
Hastings Valley Vikings would beg to differ after they suffered a heartbreaking 21-14 grand final loss to Coffs Snappers on Saturday.
Last year it was Snappers’ cross-town rivals Southern Cross University that crashed the Oxley Oval grand final party.
This year, it was the other side of Coffs Harbour that plunged the dagger through the heart.
Vikings coach Dave Henry was gracious in defeat, admitting Snappers earned their premiership status, but it didn’t make it hurt any less.
“It only hurts because it means so much,” he said.
“Not just to me, but to our players.
“You don’t want to see them hurt, but that’s footy. You’d love to be able to win them all, but at 21-14 there’s only a try in it.”
The Vikings trailed 13-0 at the break as Snappers took full advantage of a howling nor-easter to camp themselves inside the Hastings Valley half.
The 2017 runners-up had their chances, but ultimately injuries proved the decisive factor after Tom Hetherington and Lyndon Gale were substituted in the first 20 minutes.
Mark Minter finished the match on one leg and Ben Pursell played the match with a broken bone in his foot.
The 13-point margin at halftime proved a mountain too tall for the injury-riddled Vikings to overcome.
“We thought it wasn’t a mountain too big to climb and we could do that in the second half,” Henry said.
“With the wind the way it was we wanted to tackle our way to victory and we couldn’t quite do that.”
Henry lamented a lack of opportunities in the second half to bring their half-time team talk into action.
Coffs Harbour handed Hastings Valley the ball where they didn’t want it and they couldn’t utilise the breeze to their advantage.
“Our plan in the second half was to kick into the bottom corner and we could never get the ball to do that,” Henry said.
“When we got the ball, we got it in the wrong part of the field to be able to execute that and that’s where it all went wrong.”
When Blake Ryan crossed in the 66th minute to close the gap to a converted try, the Vikings had the wind in their sails.
But the Snappers defence held firm.
“It hurts now because it means so much, but you dust yourself off and go again next year; you have to because there’s no other choice,” Henry said.