They put up a gallant effort, but Hawke's Bay senior men cricket team's Hawke Cup reign, again, ended in their first defence in Napier tonight.
The Pay Excellence-sponsored side couldn't reel in the 335-run target, losing by 64 runs to watch the Hamiltonians load the symbol of minor association supremacy into their mini-vans to ensure it'll be housed in Mooloo Land over winter.
The Jacob Smith-captained side did remarkably well in skittling the challengers for just 40 runs from the four remaining wickets overnight — well below their predicted 350 to 370 runs and even had more deliveries in the bank to go about chasing the target today.
However, a stock take of the four innings in three days of play on what both sides had declared a benign batting strip shows the cup defenders had come up terribly shy in their first innings of 131 runs and, less damningly, taking the foot off the throats of the Hamilton batsmen in their first dig of 287 runs.
Opening seamer Liam Dudding was the key architect in giving the Hamilton tail order the shake to finish with 3-59 while fellow new-ball merchant Ben Stoyanoff, Bradley Schmulian and Jayden Lennox all claimed two scalps each.
No 4 Matt Edmondson top scored with 61 runs in the second innings while Christian Leopard showed his consistency and class with 60, on the back of his 44 runs in the first innings.
No 6 Angus Schaw scored 57 runs and first-drop Schmulian added 32 to the collective but it was simply too little, too late for the Dave Castle-coached team at Nelson Park where the weather also held out.
The Brook Hatwell-mentored Hamilton, who had begun celebrations yesterday with a few beers, kept their composure with the ball today.
Josef Walker, arriving here with first-class background, was the pick of the bowlers with 3-68 runs from 17 overs, with brother and fellow spinner Freddy sharing the workload with 2-67 from 14.5 overs.
Bowling first-innings hero Anurag Verma, who had predictably swung the moment of the game into the visitors' favour after taking 6-30 with his former domestic cricket stints with the Northern Districts Knights and Wellington Firebirds, claimed 2-60 in Hamilton's second innings.
Hamilton wicketkeeper Peter Bocock, who had not featured with the gloves in their first innings, took four catches in the second dig.
Bocock had grabbed the headlines last week when he had stepped in for injured wicketkeeper BJ Watling during the second test between the Black Caps and Bangladesh at the Basin Reserve in Wellington.