Mixed fortunes for Devon and Cornwall on opening weekend of County Championship

THERE were contrasting fortunes for Devon and Cornwall on the opening weekend of the Bill Beaumont County Championship.

Champions Cornwall got their defence of the title underway with a 34-14 victory against Surrey at Richmond, but newly-promoted Devon suffered a disappointing 55-12 defeat at the hands of 17-time winners Gloucestershire at Cleve.

Devon, with seven Ivybridge players in the squad, led twice in the first half and were in the game until the break, but Gloucestershire totally dominated the second period.

Gloucestershire, with former Albion forward Dean Brooker in their side, took the lead after a minute with Cinderford centre Sam Goatley scoring an unconverted try on the right.

Devon hit back straight away when Ivybridge player-coach Lewis Paterson pounced on a loose ball 22 metres out to score under the posts.  Tom Whelan converted to put Devon in front.

Goatley, though, added a second try for the home team after good play by his club team-mate Harrison Yorke. That try was also unconverted so Gloucestershire were only 10-7 in front.

And Devon regained the lead with a fine try in the right corner by Harvey Ridgeway after some good backs play, including Paterson and Tom Scoles, who provided the final pass.

Whelan missed the tough conversion and also a penalty on 25 minutes.

After that Gloucestershire, who were stronger at the breakdown and better in the set-plays, started to get a grip of the game.

Goatley completed an impressive first-half hat-trick on 35 minutes to put his side 17-12 up and four minutes into injury-time Lewis Dennett added a penalty to make the half-time score 20-12 to Gloucestershire.

Devon, coached by Dan Parkes, did have a chance to reduce the gap at the start of the second period when they were awarded a penalty, but Whelan missed the kick.

After that it was virtually one-way traffic with Devon struggling to get possession and territory. The few times they did they wasted it.

Moseley flanker Jack Preece scored Gloucestershire’s fourth try on 48 minutes from a catch-and-drive move. Dennett converted to make it 27-12.

Preece, the only survivor from when they counties last met seven years ago, added another try even minutes later, before Goatley took his tally to four with an impressive individual effort.

Gloucestershire wrapped up a big win, which puts them top of the south pool, with further tries from replacement fly-half Tom Webb and winger James Gahan.

Cornwall are second in the six-team division after a strong finish saw them claim a bonus-point victory at Surrey.

The Duchy, with virtually a new squad this season, trailed 14-10 at the break, having had two players sin-binned in the first period, but they dug deep second half to pick up the five points.

Cornwall, coached by Graham Dawe, took the lead in the first 10 minutes when their forwards drove over and BJ Chapman got the ball down. David Mankee converted to make it 7-0.

But Surrey hit back with a converted try by winger Kariym Irving and then Cornwall had both scrum-half Jack Oulton and Chapman sin-binned. Surrey were then awarded a penalty try to go 14-7 up.

Mankee cut the gap to 14-10 before half-time with a penalty.

That was how the score remained until the final 20 minutes. Cornwall, finalists for the last three years, got their noses in front when Chris Fuca went over for an unconverted try.

And it got better for them when Albion winger Robin Wedlake touched down to make 22-14.

It was looking like they might miss out on an all-important bonus point, but they ended up scoring two late tries courtesy of Tom Notman and Matt Bowden.

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