BOURNEMOUTH head coach Will Croker backed his troops to bounce back from their play-off agony and insisted: “It is not the end of our story.”

Lions were left heartbroken after falling to a 38-23 defeat at Guernsey Raiders, meaning they missed out on promotion to National Two South.

The Chapel Gate boss revealed some members of his squad were overcome with emotion after the final whistle at Footes Lane.

He told the Daily Echo: “There were guys who were inconsolable. Alex Everett-Bolter, Alex Sutherland, Richard Sharp and Luca Firetto were all in tears.

“But as a group we stuck together and we came through it. On Saturday night there was a sense of real positivity and they almost cannot wait for next season to come.

“They know exactly what it is they want and what they need to do. When you have been that close to it and almost had a little taste, you want more.

“For large periods of the game we were the better side and the boys know that. Guernsey are now going to be playing in National Two and that’s where we want to be.

“We know it is not the end of our story. This squad is incredibly tight and close knit.”

Lions had led 13-7 at the interval with the opening try of the contest coming from Freddie Gleadowe.

Anthony Armstrong had touched down for the hosts before a pushover try and second-half scores from Layton Batiste, Armstrong and Luke Jones helped them surge into a 35-16 lead after 64 minutes.

Gleadowe crossed once more for the Chapel Gate outfit but they failed to make any more inroads as the Raiders were promoted to the fourth tier for the first time in their history.

Croker added: “Chatting to their director of rugby afterwards, he said they genuinely had absolutely no idea of how to play us in the first half.

“He went absolutely bonkers at them at half-time. By his own words he had never done it before. It was the full Sir Alex Ferguson hairdryer treatment.

“The first 20 minutes of the second half we just could not get our hands on the ball. They made some big inroads.

“We knew they would come back and hit us hard. They were top of their league for a very long time and were caught in the last two weeks.”

Defeat meant Lions remained in South West Premier next season.

“It’s been a long season with a lot of stress and ups and downs,” added Croker.

“We have a squad of guys I am incredibly proud of. I genuinely consider them to be friends and we have become a really tight group.

“I am looking forward to the break but a little bit of me also can’t wait to the end of June to come and we can get started again.

“I think the boys can take enormous pride in job they have done this season.”