Devon Girls U18s produce nail biters in Gloucestershire 

After having to abandon their fixture before Christmas, against Cornwall, just 20 minutes into the game, the Devon U18s Squad looked forward to another County battle against Gloucestershire. The two sides had only played against each other in short, festival-format games in the past, so this was an opportunity to be relished.  

The pristine all-weather pitch at Cheltenham Tigers and the glare of the sun were a far cry from the last (completed) fixture against Somerset back in November, when Devon came away victorious, leaving the pitch a little worse for wear! 

The Green and Whites won the toss and enjoyed the first half with their backs to the sun. The two teams were clearly, evenly matched with countless collisions on the gain line and many a well-defended breakaway run.

Devon was out-muscled in the scrum though and despite spending most of the first half inside the oppositions half of the pitch, struggled to get over the whitewash. It came down to a missed clearance kick by the Gloucestershire fly half to allow sharp-eyed winger, Georgia Kew to get underneath and go over in the corner. The wide try and the wind made life challenging for the Devon kicker, Millie “MJ” Balkwill to secure the extra points but nevertheless, the second-half impact players had that all-important 0-5 cushion to start the final 40 minutes.  

With the sun now at a low angle, and the home side’s scrum still just as potent, Devon was up against it. Gloucestershire threw everything at the Devon defence but it held firm. The second half was just as much a battle of attrition as the first, with the Devon girls putting in some great phases of play, only to be thwarted by the maroon defence. After some very well-worked phases, outside centre, Rosie Tidball picked her line beautifully and from deep inside her own half, flew down the outside and went over for her first of the game.  

Devon, now with a 0-10 lead faced a very determined home side. Gloucestershire dominated the next 10 minutes and came away with an all-important try off a 5m scrum. Score now 5-10.  

However, the visitors responded rapidly. A penalty just a few minutes later allowed fly-half, Abi Alner to secure her forwards a comfortable line out inside the opposition’s half. Then, following some commanding phases, Tidball again took a clean pass and powered her way through several defenders to score. 

It was now Gloucestershire’s turn to break back and moments after the restart caught the Devon side napping and went over under the posts. With the comfortable conversion, Devon started to look nervous as their lead started to dwindle. Ten minutes from the final whistle, the score was just 12-15 and the home side kept up the pressure in defence and attack.  

Time for a significant opportunity for Gloucestershire. With a two-player overlap down the right-hand side, they worked the ball out to secure what the visiting crowd assumed, had to be a try. Devon’s fullback, Ella Dart was not to be beaten though and in holding up the try, not only saved the try, but also the game. 

Moments later, Gloucestershire won a penalty which they kicked to bring the score level to 15-15. It was a nail-biting final few minutes and when the home team collected another penalty on the stroke of full time, in kickable range, the players could only watch. Thankfully for Devon, less so for the Gloucestershire kicker, it fell short and the final whistle blew, ending the game at 15 a piece.   

Devon will replay their game against Cornwall in the barmy temperatures of Spring, at Exeter Saracens on 26th March at 2 pm. All support is welcomed. 

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