Head coach Samir Kharbouch reflects on Bury St Edmunds' club-record run in the National Under-18s Cup ending in the semi-finals
Samir Kharbouch praised his Bury St Edmunds players after their club-record run in the National Under-18s Cup came to an end in the semi-finals.
The Colts narrowly missed out on a place in the grand final of the competition after losing 18-12 to Tonbridge Juddians on Sunday.
A large crowd packed out the GK IPA Haberden at the weekend as Bury were looking to book their spot in the decider, to be held at Sixways Stadium, in Worcester next month.
But it was the visitors Tonbridge, last year’s beaten finalists, who progressed to another decider where they will face Olney, who saw off Stockport 42-24 in the other semi-final.
“Tonbridge were a pretty good team,” Bury head coach Kharbouch said. “I’m proud of my boys more than anything else.
“Their fight and determination and physicality was faultless. It was completely faultless all the way through.
“We just weren’t as accurate as we would have liked, but that’s OK. It was a really big game and it was a hell of an experience for our lads.
“They fought their hearts out and they did the best they could and unfortunately we just didn’t quite make it.
“The community were great. They all came down and supported the lads.
“There’s some bright futures for some of those lads. For some of the boys it’s probably the biggest game they’ll play in their lives.
“That’s sport for you. You’ll always hear the stories of how so and so played this game and so and so played that game.
“They might not play in a game with that many people watching again, but to perform the way they did was unbelievable, to be honest.
“I can’t be annoyed as a coach. I’ve got 22 boys there that put on the shirt and literally played as hard as they could from minute one to the end.”
Bury’s historic run to the semi-finals had seen them record wins against North Walsham (36-13), Bishop’s Stortford (22-20), Shelford (15-7), Maidenhead (15-10) and Westcliff (39-10).
Kharbouch’s side faced an academy side from Tonbridge which had National Under-18s Cup pedigree, having reached the final last season, where they lost out to West Park Leeds.
“It was a pretty fair contest,” the Bury boss reflected.
“We went up early doors after a try, but they were a good team and they punished us.
“When we didn’t get out of our half cleanly they punished us for it.
“Our boys didn’t give up and they didn’t roll over. Pound for pound they were way bigger than us across the team and I wouldn’t be surprised if they beat the team in the next round by even more than they beat us.
“We probably could have done a bit better, but I can’t fault the effort.
“I was talking to Will Kingston (assistant coach) and we said if we played that game nine more times, we’d probably win five of them, and that’s how the ball bounces.
“Most importantly, I wouldn’t swap any of my players for any of their players.
“I’m just really proud of the boys. At the end of the day they did awesome and they’ve been really good members of the club.”
Bury can still finish the season with some silverware as they take on Shelford for a place in the Eastern Counties Colts Cup final a week on Sunday (April 16, venue TBC).