Halswell Hornets’ Massetti Cup campaign ended on Saturday courtesy of a heavy 50-6 semi-final defeat at the hands of Hornby Panthers, but when the dust settles the club can look back on a season of enormous progress.

After winning the 2014 grand final, the Hornets languished near the foot of the ladder, finishing seventh in 2015 then collecting back-to-back wooden spoons.

But Gore Cup success last year and a finals appearance in 2018 represents a remarkable turnaround.

Hornets coach Rob Faalilo was preoccupied with his side’s failure to grasp their big-match opportunity at Leslie Park, however.

“I think they wanted it more,” Faalilo lamented post-match.

“They played far harder than we did and we had too many errors throughout the game.

“We made 17 or 18 errors, so it makes it tough when you give that much possession to a team bringing it at you.

“It’s pleasing for us to get up there in the top four, but that’s not the way we wanted to finish off. It was one of those days for us.”

But the unassuming Faalilo, who took the reins from then-Canterbury coach Darrell Coad in 2015, did concede his youthful squad had made big strides this year.

“Having been down in the bottom four for the past three years, it’s awesome to get up in the top four and we’ll be looking to build off that and take it into next season,” he said.

“We have something like six or seven 18-year-olds in our starting line-up, so it is a young team, (though) we have a couple of senior players in there as well.

“It’ll be a learning curve for them, it’s another level of football compared to the 18s grade.”

Halswell chalked up five wins and a draw during the regular season to clinch fourth spot, with a three-game winning streak early in the year laying the platform.

Faalilo praised the rapid rise of his premiership newcomers but said the input of a clutch of experienced campaigners was crucial to their success.

“Everyone stepped up to the plate this season.

“Willie Davis and Jaye Pukepuke led the way in the forwards, and Sean (Scott) has looked after our backs.

“And the Tofilau brothers, Ken and Shalom, have been a great addition to the side.”

Rockcote Canterbury Bulls rep Sean Scott had an especially prolific season at halfback for the Hornets, topping the premiership’s pointscoring charts (138) and finishing as his team’s top try-scorer (10).

Backline speedster Nick Evans, who played in the 18s grade last year, was another standout with nine tries in 12 premiership appearances. Ken Tofilau returned from InTrust Super Cup club Central Queensland Capras to aid the Hornets’ cause.

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