CORNWALL are just one game away from reaching a fifth consecutive County Championship final after beating neighbours Devon 56-11 at Ivybridge on Saturday.
The reigning champions, coached by former Plymouth Albion boss Graham Dawe, will now battle it out with fellow unbeaten side Hertfordshire at Camborne next weekend for a place at Twickenham.
Cornwall have not played at home yet this season, but have claimed two bonus-point victories away at Surrey and Devon.
Despite having lost of a host of key players from last season’s successful squad, including Billy Searle, Christian Judge, Herbie Stupple, Kyle Marriott, Rupert Freestone, Greg Goodfellow, Tom Cowan-Dickie, Ben Hilton and Nielson Webber, Cornwall were just too strong for newly-promoted Devon.
Plymouth Albion back Robin Wedlake and Royal Navy flanker Sam Matavesi particularly stood out in front of a bumper crowd at Cross-in-Hand.
Whereas Cornwall will be aiming to reach a fifth successive final – a feat Devon achieved under Graham Dawe between 2004 and 2008 – their neighbours will be hoping to end a tough campaign with victory over fellow new boys Kent at Barnstaple next weekend.
Devon, who included seven Ivybridge players in their squad on Saturday, somehow need to find a way to be able to play for longer than 40 minutes.
Cornwall, meanwhile, will be hoping they can produce some more rugby like they did at Ivybridge. Some of their backs and support play was outstanding.
In the first County Championship meeting between the sides in seven years, Cornwall took an early lead with a penalty by Camborne fly-half David Mankee.
Two minutes later the visitors went 10-0 in front with an interception try by the impressive Wedlake, which Mankee converted.
Cornwall, captained by Jake Murphy, went 17-5 up just before the quarter-of-an-hour mark with a converted try by Albion full-back Matt Shepherd after scrum-half Jack Oulton had taken a quick tap penalty.
Tom Whelan kicked two penalties for Devon to pull them to within six points before the game was stopped for 10 minutes due to a serious looking head injury to home county captain James Harris.
Former Albion flanker Harris, though, was eventually able to walk off the pitch, albeit groggily.
Six minutes after the game resumed, Cornwall added a third try through hooker Richard Brown. That came after Shepherd had been stopped inches away in the right corner and Matavesi, on as a replacement, had made an initially storming run down the left.
Mankee converted and also added a penalty four minutes later to make it 27-11.
Devon did think they had scored a second try just before half-time through Barnstaple’s Will Topps, but it was controversially disallowed allowed for a double movement.
The second half was totally dominated by Cornwall, who were cheered on by an impressive following at Ivybridge.
Royal Navy flanker Matavesi, who had missed last week’s game at Surrey, then got on the scoresheet himself with a try near the posts on 55 minutes when he held off his former Albion team-mate Cameron Setter to get the ball down.
Almost instantly Cornwall added another try, this time through left winger Tom Notman. Shepherd converted that to put his side 46-11 up.
The game went relatively quiet for 15 minutes but sprang into life again in the closing stages.
On 75 minutes, Wedlake added a second try in the left corner and in injury-time, just after Devon player-coach Lewis Paterson had been sin-binned, forward George Jones, one of two Penryn players in Cornwall’s starting line-up, crossed from close range.
The Duchy came close to adding another with the last play of the game, but Shepherd was just pushed into touch as he tried to score in the left corner.
Devon: Charlie Briant (Ivybridge), Will Topps (Barnstaple), Ollie Rice (Exmouth), Lewis Paterson (Ivybridge), Tom Scoles (Ivybridge), Tom Whelan (Sidmouth), Cameron Setter (Plymouth Albion), Russell Morris (Brixham), Ashley Crouch (Barnstaple), Matt Finn (Ivybridge), Jack Fahy (Exmouth), George Wilson (Ivybridge), Matt Harvey (Brixham), James Harris (capt, Exmouth), Sam Thomas (Brixham). Reps all used: Mike Richards (Exmouth), Isaac Dalton (Exmouth), Matt Dowrick (Newton Abbot), Tom McGrattan (Okehampton), Ryan Dingle (Ivybridge), Jack Bond (Newton Abbot), Mitch Pinkus (Ivybridge).
Cornwall: Matt Shepherd (Plymouth Albion), Lewis Vinnicombe (Redruth), Robin Wedlake (Plymouth Albion), Jake Murphy (capt, Barnstaple), Tom Notman (Redruth), David Mankee (Camborne), Jack Oulton (Redruth), Andruis Zacharius (Camborne), Richard Brown (Redruth), Craig Williams (Redruth), Bryn Jenkins (Barnstaple), Tony Whittle (Camborne), Grant Randlesome (Penryn), George Jones (Penryn), BJ Chapman (Redruth). Reps all used: Matt Ballard (Wadebridge), Sam Matavesi (Camborne), Brad Howe (Redruth), Tommy Phillips (Redruth), Chris Fuca (Redruth), Seti Raumakita (Plymouth Albion), Joe Elderkin (Redruth).