Mark Wells paid tribute to Gosport & Fareham’s loyal fans after his side narrowly failed to land a league and cup double.
The head coach reckoned Basingstoke narrowly deserved to lift the Hampshire Cup after a 16-10 triumph on their Down Grange pitch.
But he was chuffed with the effort from his Gosport & Fareham troops, who took the London two south west title last weekend.
And despite losing the battle on the pitch – and surrendering the crown they won last term – Wells was in no doubt who won the war off it.
‘It was a good, tough cup final just as we expected,’ he said.
‘Basingstoke were an organised and powerful team, especially in the contact areas.
‘Many people have said they are the best team in London one.
‘And this season they got themselves into a place where they could have pushed for promotion.
‘The Basingstoke coach (James Croker) was very gracious in victory and came across to us to commiserate with us.
‘He has done an excellent job with them and has taken over from the low where they were last season and has got them back to a good place.
‘This game was a benchmark for where we are going to be next season – in London one – and it shows we are ready.
‘It shows we are capable of playing at a higher level – providing we can keep everybody fit and playing.
‘But we have to make sure we continue to progress.
‘We are going to be a more physical side as the players get older because a lot of them are still only 19 and 20 years old.
‘To be fair, I think Basingstoke just deserved to win on Saturday because, although we scored two tries to their one, they just pipped us.
‘It was a hard, hard physical game played right on the edge, and in Paul Kimber we had a referee who could handle it.
‘Our supporters have done us proud again, though.
‘We out-sang the home crowd and that is Gosport & Fareham to its core.’
The only difference between the two sides was the boot of Basingstoke fly-half Andrew Humberstone.
His second-half penalties – one in the ninth minute of added time – saw off the defending champions.
Gosport & Fareham outscored the hosts 2-1 in tries in a spirited defence of their crown, though.
Gareth Jones scored the opener after just 10 minutes, but shortly after Basingstoke grabbed the lead, full-back Ashley Patterson charged through the Gosport defence for a try Humberstone had no trouble converting.
In the 43rd minute, Humberstone’s penalty stretched the home side’s lead to 10-5 at the break but it was still all to play for at Down Grange.
And Gosport were level again after 63 minutes when centre Jonathan Wood, who was left with a lot to do, finished superbly to register the second Gosport try.
The score came against the run of play, though.
And back came Basingstoke to edge in front again four minutes later thanks to Humberstone’s boot.
The north Hampshire outfit finally put the game beyond the reach of the visitors with an injury-time penalty.