The plucky underdogs struggled valiantly but in the end failed to overcome overwhelming odds.

No, not the England rugby team but the housebuilding sector’s one-sided clash with the City.

Not even a bit of takeover speculation could lift shares much above their year lows, despite a reasonable spike after Monday’s poor trading.

Persimmon squashed speculation that it was looking to launch bids for Redrow or Bellway by revealing this week that it has spent almost £2.5m on a buyback programme.

Persimmon snapped up 250,000 shares at an average price of 953p, a move the City liked enough to send its stock up more than 4%.

This buyback does not prevent a future tilt at Redrow or Bellway, but it could hardly start buying its own shares in this manner if the City speculation about tentative talks had any substance …