THE fairytale Powergen Intermediate Cup journey to Twickenham ended in defeat but far from disgrace for Gosport & Fareham against an ultimately professional Halifax outfit, who were every bit deserved 43-19 victors.

With a virtual gap of two leagues between them - Halifax are just a point away from promotion to the National Leagues - the Yorkshiremen dominated throughout, leaving Gosport to feed off anything they could.

But there could be no mistaking Gosport's pride, as they mounted three attacks and scored from each one of them. They played as well as they were able to - it was just that Halifax played the game at a pace that their opponents had barely encountered in London 2 South.

Defensively, the southerners were more than a match for the more exalted opponents. They certainly had plenty of it to do, but the measure of their holding out success was that Halifax crossed five times - it could have been many more but for Gosport's tenaciousness.

With a potent force of former Auckland full-back Glen Strang, Blue Sox rugby league star Oliver Marns and fellow winger Aaron Canning in their back three, Gosport can look back on their day with a sense of achievement.

After falling behind to Strang's score on the overlap, Sean Fanning initial burst released Richard Hutchinson, who cut through the defence to within five metres of the northerners' line. From the ruck, Goddard and Thompson joined the line and Richard Lloyd was on hand to complete the score.

It sent the vocal 2,500 plus Gosport & Fareham support into overdrive- they did not stop singing or cheering all day. But the match parity lasted just three minutes; Strang hitting a simple penalty after missing an easier one earlier.

A midfield melee resulted in Fanning and Halifax's number eight Philip Horton being confined to the cooling tank for ten minutes, but from the penalty, the semi-pros peeled off a line-out and scrum-half Bartlett went over.

Marns used his gas to sprint past the covering Andy Vance for their third but Burns' bullocking run set up a ruck from with Richard Hutchinson twisted and swivelled to the line. Lloyd converted, as did Strang of a penalty at the break.

At 23-12, Gosport were still in the game. However, after just three minutes of the second half had elapsed and the game was over. Bartlett's break found replacement centre Morley and Marns stormed to the line. However, the pass was forward - it was not spotted.

Strang posted a third penalty and a conversion of Canning's try with 12 minutes remaining. It set the scene for Sean Fanning's breathtaking try to throw a bit of respectability and reality to the score line.

Following excellent work from the forwards initially, Goddard took up the challenge and found the former rugby league star to slice open the defence with ease and panache to score. He converted his own try but Strang replied with a fourth penalty to cap their day.

An exhausted Gosport skipper Simon Burns had nothing but praise for his side. "It was not that the lads were not up for it or we froze on the big occasion, Halifax were a very good side.

"They may have won at a canter, but we can happily say we put in a great performance. I said to the guys that if they can look themselves in the mirror and say he gave his best, then that is all you can ask.

"It has been a great run and a great experience to play here at Twickenham. Sadly, the result did not go our way but they are a fine side that are just a step away from National League rugby. Some of their players are even better than that.

"They were just the better side on the say. We battled well like we always do, and that is the source of some disappointment in the dressing room. But there is nothing we can do about it. We are all very proud and pleased with the way we played."

His opposite number, Carl Mortimer, had some kind words also, "Gosport made a really good game of it. The score does not really reflect the game.

"They were a lot better than that and were really good, giving us everything they had. They also played with a hell of a lot of spirit."

The gulf between amateur and professional rugby was never more illustrated. Halifax's players are given £200 per week and a win bonus to boot. Gosport & Fareham's provide £5 in subs for the privilege of playing. It was sadly obvious.