HEREFORDSHIRE missed out on the Unicorns Championship by just two points after Wiltshire beat Shropshire in the last round of matches.

But Herefordshire's win over Wales by a convincing nine wickets at Brockhampton sealed second place, their best finish in the Championship since winning the Western Division in 2001.

"We have some very good cricketers in the team without there being a real star," said chairman of selectors Ernie Morgan.

"We've gone into the last three matches without a professional and have won by 160 runs, 260 runs and now nine wickets so we could not really have asked for any more than that.

Morgan paid tribute to the contribution made by skipper Dave Exall.

"He has not had a great season with the bat but he has developed a great team spirit," said Morgan.

"Winning breeds happiness in a team, of course, but he has really got a good spirit going within the side."

Herefordshire won the toss and elected to field first at Brockhampton and had little cause to regret the decision even though Wales posted 48 before losing their first wicket.

Star of the show was seamer Callum Stewart who picked up wickets steadily to finish with 6-39.

"Callum bowled really well throughout the game," said Morgan.

"Dan Conway bowled well too and is a very steady opening bowler."

Conway picked up 1-44 and David Ball, with 2-35, and Brad Wadlan, 1-21, were also successful.

"Ball has made a good contribution this season, particularly early on," acknowledged Morgan.

The only real disappointment was that Herefordshire conceded their first batting of the season.

"We had been hoping that we might get through the season without conceding one at all but Wales were the first team to get past 175 in the first innings against us," said Morgan.

Although Herefordshire lost Alex Phillips early on, Liam Gwynne (37) and Nitesh Patel helped push the score on.

After Gwynne was dismissed, however, wickets continued to fall regularly with five players in the middle-order contributing just 14 runs between them.

Patel went solidly on and struck 15 fours fro 163 balls on his way to 87.

"It was a fine innings by Nitesh and he was a bit disappointed to get out on the Australian 'devil number'," said Morgan.

Will Barrett, on his home ground, helped to hold the lower order together with 21 while Conway's 10 comprised a six and a four as they were dismissed for 199, a first innings lead of just nine.

Herefordshire turned in another strong bowling performance in the second innings, particularly after Wales had reached 87-3.

Star of the show second time around was spinner Aqsad Ali who again enhanced his reputation by taking 5-25 from 21 overs.

"He really builds the pressure up to a head," said Morgan. "He bowls very accurately and they couldn't get him away.

Wales were finally all out for 137 leaving Herefordshire a target of 130.

Although Gwynne suffered a rare failure, out for just five, Herefordshire cruised home before lunch on the third day with Phillips (75 not out) and Patel, who added an unbeaten 47 to his first-innings score, sharing an unbroken stand of 125.

"The two new lads that we brought in towards the end of the season, Ali and Phillips, have certainly done themselves justice," said Morgan.

Although disappointed to have missed out on the title by the small margin of two points, Morgan was upbeat.

"The draw against Cheshire, when we had them nine wickets down earlier in the season was crucial but we only lost one session all season," he said.

"At the start of the season, we would certainly have accepted second place."