Gosport & Fareham recorded a memorable 24-20 victory over National League Havant at Gosport Park to reach the final of the Hampshire Cup.
And Gosport director of rugby Jamie Daly hailed a great effort from his players.
‘It was a fantastic win and a fantastic game all round – wins don’t come any sweeter than that,’ he said.
‘A lot of people in this club have been waiting for that result for many years.
‘It was just a fantastic all-round performance from all of our players.’
After full-back Alex Dunscombe’s boot twice put Gosport in front, Havant went in level at the break.
The home side overcame Anthony Reynold’s yellow card to regain the lead when a typically powerful break from scrum-half Wes Dugan set up fly-half Sam Foster for the first try of the game.
Dunscombe’s conversion and a penalty put Gosport 16-6 ahead but with defeat staring them in the face Havant hit back with tries by Rich Neil and veteran John Barfoot, both converted by Richie Booth, to go in front for the first time in the match.
With seven minutes remaining, though, it was Havant’s turn to suffer a yellow card and another Duncombe penalty followed by Foster’s second try sealed the win for Gosport.
Daly added: ‘It takes two teams to make a good game but, irrespective of how you look at the Havant team that played, a lot of them are first team or have played first team, and it was a good contest all round – a good open game of rugby refereed well by Jeff Highcock.
‘Havant might have been a little bit complacent in the first half which ended at six points apiece.
‘They showed a few touches where they were making yards and passing out of tackles well but we managed to snuff that out in the end.
‘Half-time came for us at the right time and then after the restart we had a bit of a dip for 15 minutes and Havant picked it up to score two tries.
‘But in the last 10 minutes the steel and the passion of wanting to win this game showed for us and, although pretty much everyone in our team was blowing, I was loathe to make changes because of the situation of the game.
‘It was a bit like last week again – fantastic commitment and passion showing through, our players wanting to play the full 80 minutes and finish the game off as winners.
‘Yes, I suppose there are bragging rights over Havant for us now but Simon Burns, their head coach, was the first to come over and shake my hand and say “well done, you deserved it” and I think we did.’
Gosport media secretary Brian Seeney felt the game was a good advert for county cup rugby.
He said: ‘Anyone who thinks county cup rugby is a dinosaur that counts for little or nothing needed to be here to witness that league rugby is not the be all and end all.
‘It was a pulsating game that was passionately disputed.’
Havant director of rugby Adam King expressed a different view as he called for change.
‘The competition needs to be looked at because it no longer has the same priority it used to have,’ said King.
‘If it was turned into an under-23 competition it could really benefit county rugby.
‘They could also play it either in midweek or at the beginning or end of the season and not try to hold it when players are at a crucial stage of a 26-match league season.
‘I was able to rest most of my senior players but because of our lack of depth still had to include four players from our last league match.
‘I would rather not have done that and ended up fielding a mix of them, academy players and a couple of veterans from the Mariners team.’