A brave performance could not prevent Hampshire from a 39-7 defeat against Leicestershire in the final of the Bill Beaumont County Championship tier two final at Twickenham.
Leicestershire proved too powerful – particularly up front, where their rivals endured a torrid time in the scrummages.
But despite being up against it, Hampshire stuck to their guns and limited their opponents to eight points in the first half.
A superb Alex-Pierre Clark try was a fair reward for the dogged determination of the county side.
But they could never quite come to terms with the physicality of their opponents.
Coach Ian Chandler praised the squad for their resilience.
‘To be fair, we found ourselves up against it from the start,’ he said.
‘Leicestershire are a very good side.
‘They have been together for eight years, which gives them greater cohesion.
‘Our three-quarters had to work hard to try to make things happen and we probably scored the try of the game.
‘This is only our second year and all the players have plenty to be proud of. It is still a remarkable achievement to get to the final in our first year at this level.’
The opening minutes were ominous for Hampshire, with Leicestershire totally destroying their scrummage.
The first try arrived after 10 minutes when a lovely flat pass from Thomas Wheatcroft gave Callum Dacey space on the left.
He cut inside, evaded two tackles and forced his way over the line.
As they have done throughout all group games, however, Hampshire responded well and earned two penalties.
Unfortunately, both Alex Sutherland and Clark missed the target with their kicks.
Sutherland again put his side on the front foot with an excellent burst up the right touchline and a Clark kick rolled into touch five yards from the Leicestershire line.
Hampshire launched a series of attacks but they foundered on the rock-like defence of their opponents.
The only other score prior to the break came from a penalty – after Luke Marks failed to roll away at a tackle.
Leicestershire again showed their power at the start of the second period, stretching their lead to 13-0 with a second unconverted try.
Even though they had a player yellow-carded, the midlands outfit’s superior strength allowed them to add a further try with the game approaching the final 20 minutes.
Hampshire’s efforts finally paid dividends with a fine Clark try in the 62nd minute after a superb move involving both Dugan brothers, Wes and Wayne, and centre Freddie Gleadowe.
Clark went in under the posts and Sutherland added the conversion to get Hampshire on the board.
But the power of the Leicestershire pack continued to tell as they added three late tries against the tiring Hampshire defence.