JAMIE DALY hailed his Gosport & Fareham troops after they capped their season with Hampshire Cup glory on Saturday.
The south coast outfit ran out 23-19 winners over Basingstoke at Down Grange in the final.
Alex Duncombe was named man of the match after scoring the match-winning try and kicking well.
Daly was thrilled with the passion his men showed in a gruelling encounter with the National League side.
And the director of rugby reckons it was the perfect way to sign off for the summer.
‘It was a great way to end the season,’ said Daly.
‘And it was an absolutely fantastic performance to beat a second National League team in this competition.
‘It was very hard, dogged game in which everyone played very well.
‘The players were a little bit on edge and nervous, so we tried to relax them and give them a fluid game plan and left it up to them.’
Wayne Dugan and Duncome both crossed the whitewash for Gosport & Fareham, while Duncombe added two penalties and Sam Foster a drop goal.
However, Basingstoke pushed the underdogs rights to the end.
‘We were under constant pressure as Basingstoke pulled it back to leave us just one point in front at one stage,’ said Daly.
‘But we hung on in there and defended well.
‘There were moments when I felt like slowing the game down a bit and putting some fresh legs on – it was very tempting.
‘But the way the game was going I felt to change it would have been a mistake because everyone was mentally there and prepared for the dogfight we knew would happen.
‘Alex Duncombe kicked well and scored a good try and deserved his man-of-the-match award.
‘All of our players showed passion and commitment and deserved to win.
‘Basingstoke were the favourites by a country mile and we were definitely the underdogs but we had a belief we could win this game and we went out and proved it.’
Daly is now hoping – after his troops have etched their name in the history books – a new, stronger mentality is emerging at the club.
And he is confident there are exciting times ahead.
‘There have been lots of times in past seasons when players have turned up and expected to lose,’ he said.
‘But in the past few matches the mental strength has improved 10-fold. Now I think we can be a force for next season.
‘When we stared pre-season training 11 months ago our sole objective was to stay in London two south west.
‘Now, I suppose because we have won this, we are the best club in Hampshire – although I expect a lot of others would tend to disagree.
‘But the other clubs could have entered and didn’t.
‘The history books will now say Gosport & Fareham won the Hampshire Cup in 2011 and you can’t argue with history books.’