Cape Town - The Lions lost their third straight Super Rugby final on Saturday, but coach Swys de Bruin and captain Warren Whiteley have expressed their pride following Saturday's performance.
The Lions dominated possession and territory throughout the contest, but in the end the Crusaders were far more ruthless with their opportunities as they secured a 37-18 win in Christchurch.
Whiteley was emotional after the fixture, labelling it as "tough" to fall at the final hurdle for the third time in as many years, but he added that he could not fault the performance of his players.
"It's tough. We gave it everything," Whiteley said.
"That's all you can ask for and we showed a lot of character and heart out there. Credit to the Crusaders ... they stopped our mauls, stopped our scrums. I think we had about 70% possession ... we couldn't have done more."
The Lions had numerous opportunities to convert pressure into points, but the Crusaders defence was up for almost every challenge.
"We had opportunities where we were literally inches from scoring," Whiteley said.
"Elton's (Jantjies) try ... that's talking inches that was the difference.
"I don't know how many opportunities we had with mauls five metres from their line.
"The opportunities were there and we created those opportunities through holding onto the ball and putting pressure on them. I can only be proud of every individual, because you don't just get opportunities like that against the Crusaders."
De Bruin was equally proud of his charges after his first season as head coach.
"As I said to the guys in the changeroom, the score is one thing and the character and guts is another," he said.
"I saw character today and what more can you ask for?
"It's just a very good Crusaders side who deserve to be the champions."