Oundle coach Peter Croot was full of praise for his players after Saturday’s brave effort in the semi-finals of the RFU Senior Vase.
The Northamptonshire side were beaten 31-23 by West Leeds, last year’s beaten finalists, but they made the Yorkshire outfit fight all the way before securing their return trip to Twickenham on May 7.
The hosts never recovered from a dreadful opening period which saw them fall 17-0 down within the first quarter-of-an-hour.
Despite this, Croot remained hugely proud of his men.
He said: “We showed what desire and passion we have.
“This season has been fantastic and we are league and Midlands Vase champions - no-one can take that piece of history away from all the players who have worked so hard.
“I think this side will bring more days like today to Occupation Road, and we will go forward on our journey with real confidence next season.”
The 17-point deficit proved too much to overhaul for Oundle, although a penalty from Craig Tandy and try by Toby Snelling pulled them back to 20-8 at half-time.
The game appeared to be moving further away from them as they slipped to 26-11 behind in the second half.
However, hopes were raised during a 10-minute period when they came right back into the game.
Robb Shingles scored after 65 minutes and Dan Page added another - converted by Tandy - on 74 minutes to bring them within three points.
But the dream was finally extinguished when a late score by the visitors put them 31-23 in front and on the road to Twickenham.