BURY Broncos coach Dave Kelly predicted his players would come back stronger after missing out on a place in the play-offs with a final-day defeat.

Kelly's men finished fifth in Division Two of the North West Men's League - their highest ever league placing – after going down 24-16 at home to basement club Manchester Rangers.

Victory would have secured a place in the top four to extend their season after rivals Leyland lost.

And after spending the entire season in the top four, falling at the final hurdle was tough to take.

But Kelly said: "We have been in the top four all season, from the first Saturday, and to drop out of it on the last one is very hard to take for Liam (Owen, head coach) and myself as well as the players.

"But fifth place is no disgrace. It is the highest the cub has ever finished and with the young team we have I am sure we will come back stronger next year."

The game, played on Bury's home pitch at Philips High School in Whitefield, began well for them as Blake Roberts fed Liam Sixsmith to power his way past a couple of defenders and open the scoring.

But Rangers came back with two tries to take a 12-4 lead.

The visitors' advantage was reduced to two points by half time when high kick from Brad Cave was fumbled by their full-back under pressure from Warren Bluer and scrum-half Sean Kelly was on hand to pick up the loose ball and score under the sticks.

Broncos' attempts to build up a head of steam at the start of the second half were undermined by cheap penalties and bad handling, which allowed Rangers to add another six points.

But Bury wrestled back control of the game when a Rangers player knocked on, the ref shouting for a free play to allow Adam Grundy to put in a clever kick that was well taken by winger Joe Galpin, who shook off a couple of tackles to score.

Roberts added the extras points to reduce the arrears to 18-16.

Tyler Nolan was held up over the line but the Broncos' place in the play-offs remained tantalisingly out of reach as ill discipline let Rangers back in for a late try to seal the win.

Kelly added: "This was by no means a bad performance and for large parts of the game we were the better team. With more control and composure we would surely have run out winners.

"There were some good individual performances. Chris Sloan and Jonno Taylor really took the game to Rangers, and there was some big defence from Joe Wilkinson, Will Spencer and Charlie Delaume.

"Special mentions must also go to Adam Grundy, who made it through the full 80 minutes, while Joe Galpin put in a strong performance on the wing."