The Tarsha Gale Sharks have bowed out of the finals race, beaten 32-26 in a thriller by the Newcastle Knights in their sudden-death semi final clash at Kogarah Jubilee Oval on Friday.
After an indifferent start to their season, the defending Tarsha Gale champions found some form in the later part of the season, winning their last three games to qualify for the finals.
A win over the Panthers in week one gave the Sharks hope of a repeat of their 2018 success, only to succumb to a Newcastle try with just two minutes of their semi final remaining, their season coming to an end just short of a Grand Final qualifier.
It was a heartbreaking way to go out for the Sharks girls, but with a squad largely made up of newcomers, the season could be viewed as a great success considering the new female talent which was unearthed.
The finals clash with the Knights looked to be one-way traffic in the early going, with the Newcastle girls scoring four tries in the first 20 minutes as opposed to just the one four-pointer from Kelly Gilmore from the Sharks.
Behind 18-6 the Sharks lifted a gear and following tries to Jamie Chapman and Maddison Higgins-Ashby the scores were level at 18-all, before the Knights crossed to again take a four point lead.
Showing great character the Sharks evened the scores once more through Lynda Howarth try, setting up a frantic last period of what had developed into an enthralling contest.
With both teams keeping the scoreboard operator busy the Knights went ahead, a second Higgins-Ashby levelled the scores at 26 with five to go, however the Sharks couldn't hold on, the game winner coming in the last two minutes of the game.
The Sharks were gallant in defeat against a Knights team which had finished the nine-round regular season second on the ladder with eight wins.
Some of the Tarsha Sharks will push up to train on and learn with the Harvey Norman Women’s Premiership team, with a number eligible to return to the Tarsha Gale competition in 2020.
Maddison HIggins-Ashby 2, Jamie Chapman, Kelly Gilmore, Lynda Howarth tries Chapman 2, Lilli Kelly goals