The Wiradjuri Goannas' dreams of an unbeaten season and back-to-back title wins were ended on Sunday when they suffered a loss to the Vipers in the Western Women's Rugby League grand final.
The Goannas had dominated this season's competition but without two of their best players, in hot conditions at Eugowra's Ian Walsh Oval, and against a tough and committed Vipers side the task proved too much.
The Vipers recovered from trailing 8-0 early to run out 20-12 winners in a high-class encounter.
"Today was one of the toughest footy matches I think I have played in," Vipers captain and Western Rams star Bec Ford said.
Goannas coach Gerry 'Chicka' Merritt agreed, hailing the efforts of all the players involved on grand final day.
"Under trying conditions, the heat, credit to both sides they never gave up," he said.
"Someone would gain an advantage and the other would fight back and then the roles would be reversed.
"Credit to the Vipers and the Goannas and all the clubs who played today, it was an awesome effort."
With more than 1100 people in attendance for the decider, the Goannas proved they could thrive without injured try-scoring star Bec Smyth and opened the scoring through livewire fullback Emily Caton.
Alahna Ryan, playing in the halves in the absence Britt Naden, added the extras and then a penalty from Tiffany Clarke extended the lead to 8-0 at half-time.
Ebony Watson, who went on to be named player of the match, led her side up front all game and her strong run resulted in the Vipers' first try for Jacky Lyden.
A penalty then saw things locked up but the Goannas wrestled back momentum and workhorse Kaitlyn Andrews - who has travelled back from university in Canberra regularly to play - crashed over to get her side back in front.
The conversion attempt from wide out fell just short but the hosts kept that advantage heading into the final 10 minutes.
With just six minutes remaining Watson went on another charging run, making 30m and getting her side into attacking territory.
The Vipers made the most of the chance, scoring to get back in front and then a try inside the final minute iced the win.
"I'm so proud of the girls, that took a lot of effort, a lot of heart and that's why we won today," Ford said, praising fullback Heidi Regan, Lailee Phillips, and Em McDonald but saving a speical mention for the forwards.
"We had Ebony Watson taking those tough hard runs with Jacky Lydon, Cass (Hopping) as well, just our front rowers pushing through and laying that platform for our halves.
While disappointed, Goannas captain Cassie Toomey vowed her side would come back "bigger and stronger" next season after suffering defeat in the intense match.
Coach Merritt lamented the "vital lapses" the Goannas suffered at times but remained incredibly proud of the side's success.
"I thought Kayla Hasson really was strong in the middle for us. She really made some hard yard in that middle third," he said.
"Alahna Ryan and Emily Caton in the backs, those girls, Em was just feeding off the back of the forwards' momentum and Alahna always plays a lay or two ahead.
"She was really awesome after being over in Darwin last week playing rugby union sevens and taking woman of the match over there. It was an awesome effort for her to come over here.
"Overall I'm just proud of the whole lot and especially the 18s who back up each week."
The Goannas under 18s won their grand final on Sunday while the 15s side also suffered defeat.
While Watson was named player of the match, Woodbridge's Sarah Archer was named player of the tournament.