Defeat at Leicester Lions confirmed relegation from National League Two North for Preston Grasshoppers.
Despite a spirited performance, the loss means that Hoppers will be playing level five rugby at Lightfoot Green next season.
Head Coach Garth Dew said: “‘The scoreline doesn’t look great and that loss seals our fate, but I’m actually proud of the lads today. Leicester Lions really brought the physicality, yet we stuck at it and put our bodies on the line throughout.
“We finished strongly with a couple of nice tries and hopefully we can take that into next week against Harrogate and play some open rugby. Everyone is bitterly disappointed, but I still think the lads deserve credit for never giving up and we will fight all the way until the end.”
Lions had their first try after only five minutes when Aniseko Sio touched down from a driving maul, and Jonathan Boden added the extras.
The hosts dominated the first-quarter, and when Jamel Hamilton scored in the corner, it looked as though Hoppers would be in for a long afternoon.
They were 19-0 up after half an hour after Luke Veebel ran a nice inside line from Hamilton’s pop pass, but Boden sent his conversion wide.
But Hoppers rallied and started to play some good offloading rugby, with Sam Gale and Ally Murray carrying hard.
They nearly had a try of their own before half-time, but Rhodri Mayor’s effort was disallowed for double movement.
An early second-half try was going to be crucial for whichever side scored it, so when Devon Constant eased through some lacklustre Hoppers tackling, the victory was all but guaranteed for the Leicestershire side.
Hoppers never gave up, and their hard work paid off on 52 minutes when Ryan Glynn touched down after a strong initial carry from Oga Mabaya, and Lewis Allen converted.
The visitors had the majority of possession and gained good field positions in the second-half, but their eagerness to narrow the scoreline cost them as Lions scored two tries against the run of play.
First, Veebel intercepted Glynn’s pass and raced home unopposed from his own twenty-two to score under the posts.
Then winger Constant had his second of the afternoon on 68 minutes, and Boden converted both to put Lions 40-7 ahead.
Once more, Hoppers kept plugging away and with two minutes remaining, Jack Akrigg crossed the whitewash and Allen converted for the game’s final score.