Having dominated the first half and gone in with an 18-6 lead at half-time, it was a case of so near and yet so far for Hertfordshire at Redruth in the winner takes all final pool match of the Bill Beaumont Cup. .
A passionate Cornwall side, playing down the hill towards hellfire corner, took control of the second half, scoring 19 points with Herts unable to add to their half-time score.
Although Herts ended the game pressing the Cornish line for the draw that would have taken them to the final, the home defence held firm.
So it is Cornwall who will heading to Twickenham on Sunday for the final against Lancashire.
The Hertfordshire side looked very good in the first half and silenced the large home support with some excellent back play based on a decent supply of ball from the forwards.
Playing down the hill perhaps they should have added another score and their tendency to concede penalties at the breakdown enabled Cornwall to have six points on the board at half-time.
Having the boost of a score in the opening minutes of the second half, the Cornish pack gradually took control of the set pieces, which gave less opportunity for the visiting backs.
As the three thousand Cornish supporters found their voice the visitors lost their composure somewhat and restart and clearance kicks went astray.
However, with minutes left a converted try would have put Herts top of the table – but it was not to be.
Hertfordshire started the game very brightly and almost scored after five minutes. A break by fly-half Elliott Reeder took play deep into home territory but Herts were penalised at the breakdown in front of the posts and Cornwall cleared their line.
A few minutes later Herts conceded another penalty, this time just inside their half and Matt Shepherd (Cornish All Blacks) kicked the first of his five penalties for Cornwall.
Herts continued to take the play to Cornwall but another promising attack broke down with a knock on.
Then midway through the half, centre Dan Watt charged down a Cornish kick just inside their half. Brett McNamee seized the loose ball and made ground and, after the ball was recycled, Watt completed the phase with a try that he converted to put the visitors in front.
Herts knocked on the restart which enabled Cornwall to gain a foothold in the visitors’ half and they soon took advantage with a Shepherd penalty.
Herts immediately returned to the attack and were only thwarted by a Cornish infringement 10 metres out which Watt punished with three points.
A deserved try was not long coming. The Herts pack drove the Cornishmen back some 20 metres from the restart, won the ball and kicked ahead.
The Cornish clearance was plucked out of the air by centre Sam Winter and the ball was taken on by George Elliott before it was recycled and prop Ralph Adams-Hale scored on the left.
Just before half-time a break by scrum half Tom Whiteley and a strong run from Michael Allan should have been rewarded with a try but at least Herts won a penalty which Watt converted to give the visitors the half-time lead at 18–6.
The second half started badly for Herts when Cornwall managed to spoil Herts ball from a line out on the halfway line, and a fatal hesitation allowed the home forwards to take on the loose ball and put skipper Kyle Marriott (Redruth) over the line.
Five minutes later, Winter appeared to have made a fine break on the halfway line, but the referee ruled that there had been an illegal crossing and Shepherd landed the long range penalty to close the gap to four points.
The Cornish backs began to get the upper hand in the scrums, the Herts line out did not function as well as in the first half and as a result the backs had less ball to use.
Midway through the half, Cornish pressure caused Herts to concede another penalty and the home side were only one point behind.
Then Herts lost Allan to the sin bin and Cornwall soon made use of their numerical advantage; left wing Robin Wedlake (Redruth) sprinting over to give his side the lead. Shepherd then extended it to seven points with a penalty following the Cornish line out catch and drive.
In the last few minutes Herts got back up the hill and threatened the home line on a couple of occasions but each time the Cornish defence was up to the task and they cleared their line to seal their victory.
Cornwall: Tries – Marriott 43m, Wedlake 67m; Penalties – Shepherd 7m, 28m, 47m, 60m, 72m.
Hertfordshire: Tries – Watt 20m, Adams-Hale 30m; Conversion – Watt 20m; Penalties – Watt 26m, 40m.
Henry Robinson (Darlington Morden Park); George Elliott (Hertford), Sam Winter (Bishop’s Stortford), Dan Watt (Old Albanian), Michael Allan (Old Albanian); Elliott Reeder (Old Albanian), Tom Whiteley (Bishop’s Stortford); Ralph Adams-Hale (Old Albanian), Brett McNamee (Old Albanian) (Capt), Andy Berry (Old Albanian), Lloyd Bickle (Old Albanian), Ross Hamilton (Old Albanian), Steve Ball (Bishop’s Stortford). Ollie Cooper-Millar (Old Albanian), Mark McCraith (Bishop’s Stortford).
Replacements (all used): Will Roberts (Loughborough Students), Oliver Walliker (Hartbury College), Rob Conquest (Darlington Morden Park), Torran MacDougall (Hertford), Michael Sargent (Hertford), Tom Coleman (Bishop’s Stortford), Nick Hankin (Bishop’s Stortford).