Rushden & Higham’s dreams of reaching Twickenham came to an end with a narrow defeat to Old Leamingtonians in the RFU Senior Vase Midlands semi-final.
They lost out 18-17 to their visitors, thwarting any hopes of a day out at the home of English rugby, with the drama coming late on in the game.
They led by a couple of points with just minutes remaining but conceded a penalty in the dying seconds which proved so costly.
“We’re gutted. The lads were absolutely devastated after the game,” Rushden player-coach Stuart Riding said.
“They beat us three tries to one, which hasn’t happened to us too often this season.
“Both sides threw everything at it and it would have been a good game of rugby for the spectators but unfortunately not the right result for us.
“We went two points up with about five minutes to go. They then kicked off to us, we lost the ball and then someone stupidly gave away a penalty – I can say that because it was me.
“They kicked it and we had about a minute to get back and couldn’t do it.
“Everyone was just so disappointed - especially myself.
“To give Old Leamingtonians credit, their defence was excellent and as an opposition they were as good as anything we have come up against.
“They were also a nice club and did everything right after the game. They were a credit to themselves and I hope they go on and win it now.”
It is now back to the nitty gritty of league action for Rushden after cup exploits.
And while they were otherwise engaged, Stewarts & Lloyds did not need to play to move to the top of Midlands Three East (South).
They were handed a walkover victory through bottom side Old Newtonians’ no-show and, with Stamford in cup action and Rugby St Andrews surprise draw against Casuals, it was enough to take them to the section’s summit.
Oundle bounced back from a loss last time out by thrashing their county rivals Old Grammarians 78-3.
They ran in 12 tries and dominated the game from start to finish to keep some interest alive in the battle for promotion from Midlands Four East (South).
Coach Pete Croot said: “This week we needed to make sure we got our heads focused and keep on concentrating on winning.
“Realistically we now have to wait for other teams to do us a favour, after last week we need to make sure we win every game.”
They led 38-3 at half-time and then just bettered that effort after the break as Matt Faulder (2), Alykhan Kachra (2), Toby Snelling (2), Gareth Jacob (2), Adam Blackmore, Richard Griffiths, Ross Murray, Simon New all scored tries.
There were also nine conversions for Murray and the comfortable nature of the win gave the Owls the chance to hand first-team debuts to Alex Parker and Elliott Croot in the last 10 minutes.
Wellingborough’s hopes of survival in Midlands Two East (South) took a knock as they went down 12-10 at home to table-toppers Huntingdon.
It was a grey day literallly and metaphorically as Boro failed to take their chances, particularly in the first half, and missed out on the chance to record a victory over the league leaders.
A Chris Shipman try which was converted by Pete Vickers kept them in the game with Huntingdon having touched down twice to take a slender 12-7 in to the break.
Wellingborough kept the pressure on their guests, though, but found a well-organised defence and were only able to register a Vickers penalty as handling errors ensured they got little reward for constant pressure.
A 20-10 loss for Kettering sees them sit fourth from bottom in Midlands One East while the conquerors, Bedford Athletic, have moved to the top of the table.