Rugby

Devon urged to finish on a high after tough return to county rugby’s top flight

PLAYER-coach Lewis Paterson has told Devon’s players to ‘keep faith and keep building’ after suffering another heavy County Championship defeat.

Devon, promoted back to the top flight this season after a seven-year absence, were beaten 56-11 at Ivybridge by reigning champions Cornwall on Saturday. That followed on from a 55-12 loss the week before at Gloucestershire.

The Green and Whites now have to pick themselves up for a home match against fellow newly-promoted side Kent at Barnstaple next Saturday.

If Devon lose then they will finish bottom of the south pool, although there is no relegation this season.

“No-one wants to finish bottom and we’ll look to have a big game next week,” said Ivybridge centre Paterson, who is part of a Devon coaching team that also includes Dan Parkes and Jon Hill.

“We’ll go into the game with the mentality of trying to build from this week.

“We just have to keep the faith and keep going in the right direction.”

He added:  “We said to the boys that although it might not seem like it looking at the scoreboard, it was better than last week (against Gloucestershire), but we were up against a very strong Cornwall side.

“Cornwall are influenced by Albion players and top Redruth players, who have had a very good season and are in-form. That showed.”

Devon, who reached six finals between 2000 and 2008, have double the amount of clubs playing at levels three, four and five compared to Cornwall, but have struggled to attract players in recent years.

Last season they were able to call on the likes of Dan Williams and Dan Powell, but they were not available this year after joining Albion last summer, while Wayne Sprangle was injured.

The only Albion player they did have on Saturday was scrum-half Cameron Setter, although fly-half Tom Whelan has played regularly in National One for Rosslyn Park and Esher.

Devon had hoped Chinnor’s Koree Britton, Nathan Hannay and Bevon Armitage would play for their home county, but it didn’t happen.

“Where we are recruiting from and where they (Cornwall) are is the difference,” said Paterson, who has previously played for the Duchy.  “It is just the depth of our Devon side. That’s not taking anything away from our players. It was a fantastic effort, but they were playing against National One players.

“It was tough on the scoreboard and a tough last 15 minutes, but there were positives from last week. There are things we can build on.”

Cornwall coach Graham Dawe had praise for Devon, despite his side’s big win over his former county.

“It didn’t seem like a 50-point game,” said Dawe, who coached Devon to five consecutive County Championships finals between 2004 and 2008.  “They made us work hard for it.

“They tackled us hard and we did not really get enough go-forward first half, but thankfully we managed to break free and score some tries, which was important.”

Although Cornwall were inspired by Albion players Robin Wedlake and Matt Shepherd and former Plymouth stars Jake Murphy and Sam Matavesi, Dawe picked out Penryn flankers Grant Randlesome and George Jones for special praise.

They have been playing at level eight this season in the Cornwall/Devon League, but started together in Cornwall’s back-row on Saturday.

“I was really pleased with the two Penryn lads,” said Dawe.

“I knew they were fit, technically very sound and great in contact and the dynamics of the game. They went really well. Then Matavesi came on and added to it with Chris Fuca.”

Dawe will now come up against another former Albion coach, James Shanahan, next week when Cornwall take on Hertfordshire for a place at Twickenham.

Both counties are unbeaten this season so whoever wins at Camborne will reach the final.

Cornwall are looking to secure a fifth consecutive trip to Twickenham.

“It is basically a semi-final – a winner-takes-all game, as they say,” said Dawe about next Saturday’s clash.  “All we can do is try and prepare the best we can.

“We’ll try and find out a little bit about them, but we know Hertfordshire will challenge in most areas, but particularly the backs and the scrum. We have to be ready for the scrums.”

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