BOURNEMOUTH head coach Will Croker believes his squad are capable of being one of the top sides in South West Premier after taking league leaders Dings Crusaders to the wire.

A late try from Wyn Roberts out wide handed a difficult opportunity for Lions full-back Grant Hancox to kick for the game at Chapel Gate.

But when the full-back’s attempt fell agonisingly wide of the near post, Croker’s side were left to ponder a 15-14 reverse – much to the relief of the visitors, who kept their unbeaten league record intact.

Croker, whose side trailed 10-3 at the interval, told the Daily Echo: “Dings are a decent side. Are they world-beaters? Absolutely not. Could we have beaten them? Yes.

“There were two incredibly well-matched sides. It was very physical but very fair and I don’t think anyone thought they had seen anything but a very committed game.

“In fact, their coaching team said to us after ‘thank goodness we just played you because that might knock us down a peg or two and make us stop and realise we are not the All Blacks’.

“They were convinced we were the best team they had played this year.

“That's a positive for us to hear because we believe we are in the top two or three sides in this division and we haven’t been roundly beaten yet. Nobody has actually gone to town on us.

"We have to keep believing we are in the top two or three teams in this division and we can put a run together which we have been talking about.”

Dings’ opening scores both came in the first half at Chapel Gate.

Winger Harry Tovey initially crossed before former Bristol and Exeter Chiefs man Luke Arscott touched down with a second try in the opening 25 minutes.

But Lions got themselves back in the game thanks to the boot of Hancox, who slotted three penalties before Roberts put them within touching distance in the final moments.

Croker added: “We played into the wind in the first half and got absolutely pummelled for the first 15 or 20 minutes.

“Had we played like we had done in the second half for the entirety of the match, we would probably have won and won fairly comfortably.

“Our first-half tempo had allowed their bigger, heavier pack to settle into the game nicely.

“In the second half, we knew how to play against them.

“We increased our tempo and worked a lot on trying to play one channel wider to make their big fellas run around the breakdown, rather than just being able to just settle into a spot.”

Defeat means Lions have won three and lost three of their opening six league fixtures.

They make the trip to London One South outfit Tottonians in the Hampshire Cup on Saturday.