Rosslyn Park could not have done more to chase down leaders Doncaster Knights than a eight-try 52-17 thumping of Cinderford.
However, when news came through from Blackheath that Doncaster had won, it was all in vain and runners-up Park must prepare for another season in National League One.
Disappointing, but Park can take pride in having taken the division’s only full-time professional club right to the wire – indeed their playing record of P30 W25 D1 L4 is better than the Champions’ P30 W25 D0 L5, but they were pipped on bonus points.
Perhaps the best measure of what Alex Codling’s men achieved is that they finished 24 points ahead of the next-best semi-pro club, third-placed Coventry.
Park took this match by the throat from the kick off - Cinderford showed they were a pretty useful side when they were allowed to play, but they rarely were. Park’s midfield tackling gave a platform from which they always looked dangerous.
Cinderford defended well against a couple of early attacking lineouts, but Park won a penalty in front of the posts.
Instead of taking a certain three points, they opted for the scrum and number eight Hugo Ellis peeled off the back and found winger Dom Shabbo outside him, who scored. Scott Sneddon’s conversion made it 7-0.
Soon back on the attack, Park stormed through the middle to gain another penalty. This time it was hoofed for the corner to set up the catch and drive. Cinderford looked to have successfully defended the initial drive, but the ball came back to hooker Adam Bellamy who forced his way over, Sneddon again converting for 14-0.
Still enjoying a near-monopoly of the attacking play Park gained a penalty on half way and set up a drive towards the right-hand corner.
Finding their way forward blocked they whipped the ball across the field through several pairs of hands, where winger Dave Vincent had an overlap on the left and went over in the corner for 19-0.
Opener: Dom Shabbo bags Park's first try against Cinderford
Cinderford did not simply lie down and a good attack saw them win an eminently kickable penalty close to the posts.
Instead they went for the catch and drive - Park initially won the ball, but the visitors won a free-kick and set up a good position close to the line.
Park centre Charles Broughton managed to dislodge the ball and before the visitors realised what was happening Vincent had grabbed it and sprinted away with a lone defender between him and the line.
He offloaded to scrum half Jack Gash who went in under the posts unchallenged for the bonus point try two minutes short of half-time. Sneddon’s conversion made it 26-0.
Still Park were not done with scoring, as stand-in lock Tom Baldwin charged through on the right for a score of 31-0 at the interval.
Number two: Adam Bellamy gets over the line
Park were back on the attack from kick off, reaching the 5m line with some neat handling before being penalised.
A good run through brought a penalty, hoofed to the corner only to be penalised at the line out.
Shabbo chipped over a defender but was beaten to the ball. But it was Cinderford who got the score.
Centre Jack Adams – excellent in a beaten side – charged through the middle and found winger Sam Baker outside him, who put his side on the scoreboard at 31-5.
This inspired the visitors to give Park a hard time, and they forced Park back onto defence.
Flanker George Mills made a powerful run through nearly reaching the line.
Eventually the visitors lost control of the ball close to Park’s left touchline, Vincent picked it up and sprinted nearly the length of the field, despite nearly being unbalanced by a despairing tap tackle, to score in the corner - Sneddon nailed an excellent touchline conversion for 38-5.
Park replied with a mighty drive almost to the visitors’ line and eventually the ball was released to the right where skipper Ellis, with the line at his mercy, passed instead to former skipper Darrell Ball.
Ball scored behind the posts and the genuine delight of his teammates said everything about the team spirit behind Park’s success. Sneddon converted for 45-5.
Cinderford were not yet done for as Adams produced a piece of magic, chipping over the defence and gathering the ball himself for a super try to make it 45-10.
See-ya: Harry Broadbent gets away from the Cinderford defence
The visitors gave it everything, winning a penalty that was hammered to the corner. In defending the situation Broughton was adjudged to have intervened illegally to stop the move and sent to the sin bin.
Park replacement winger Peter Cole made a good break out of defence to relieve matters for Park and eventually flanker Sam Shires seized a loose ball and sprinted over, under the posts, Sneddon’s conversion making it 52-10.
Cinderford returned to the attack and when they were awarded a penalty they took a quick tap with Park’s Ellis still prone.
He tripped the player and was sent to join his team-mate in the bin, leaving Park to see out the final minutes with only 13 men.
Cinderford piled on the pressure, switching the ball from right to left where Adams came onto the ball to bag his second try.
Replacement Mark Davies slotted over a very quickly taken conversion for 52-17, leaving his side a minute in which to bag a 4-try bonus point.
Even reduced to 13 men it was Park who looked more like scoring when a powerful run through the middle by flanker Harry Broadbent drew a good last ditch tackle.
Park retained possession until the clock ran down and then pragmatically hoofed the ball to touch, bringing down the curtain on a season that – despite ending in disappointment – was hugely successful.
Park: Gower (Grant); Shabbo (Cole), Broughton, Mackey, Vincent; Sneddon; Gash; Liffchack (Lundberg), Bellamy (Woolstencroft), McKenzie; Bowley, Baldwin (Ball), Shires, Broadbent, Ellis.
None shall pass: Sam Shires stops a Cinderford attack
Try time: David Vincent bags five points for Rosslyn Park