GREATER Illawarra coach Dean Merola is confident his side will learn from a tough weekend in Goulburn.
After a first-up win over Western Zone on Friday, the team was on track to defeat ACT-Southern Districts in their second match of the Country Championships.
Having set a target of 221, Greater Illawarra had reduced their opponents to 5-35 before Tyler Van Luin walked to the middle.
A stunning innings followed, 94 not out off 96 with a six in the final over to win the game.
Riverina then proved too good on Sunday, claiming a five-wicket victory to secure their place in the Country Championships final.
Merola was pleased with his side's effort, however he conceded they failed to win the big moments.
"We started like a house on fire," Merola said.
"We did really well to win the first game in tough conditions.
"On day two, we were in front, we thought we had the game won and just took our foot off the pedal. We didn't have that killer instinct.
"When you look at the three days, we weren't off the pace, there were just certain moments that let us down.
"We have to learn to be more clinical."
Low scores were a feature of all games across the weekend, the pitches prepared making batting very difficult.
There were questions raised by multiple teams over the state of the grounds.
This year marked Merola's return to the representative set up, the coach working closely with assistant Steve Nikitaras.
The duo hope to continue next year, Merola already identifying areas to improve.
"We've taken a lot from this weekend. We've tried to give the boys experience, understanding and development from the three days," he said.
"We had six new players come in, we blooded four young boys.
"This tournament's always tough but we learnt a lot and they'll be better cricketers for it.
"We had a pretty limited amount of time together, but we were able to see the guys' strengths and weaknesses, give them feedback and they all loved it.
"They were all keen to be back, which is what we want, the best players in the zone wanting to play rep cricket."
While some players struggled at the representative level, others thrived.
Veteran bowlers Eric Denhartog and Rhys Voysey (a Tuross Head product) were solid, with young Highlands talents Mason King and Elliott Brookes impressing throughout the weekend.
Some considered Brookes a shock selection, however Merola said the wicket-keeper's performance showed he has a bright future.
"Elliot Brookes was, for me, the find of the tournament. He was out once and scored 80-odd runs," he said.
"When we picked him, a lot of people turned around and asked 'Who's Elliott? How have you picked him?'
"We did a lot of research, we picked a few left-field selections and he was one.
"Another was Mason King, right-arm bowler, he was outstanding. We're really happy with his development, he bowled very well.
"We did go young and a few of these young players will be even better next year."