Devon U20s take positives out of narrow loss to Cornwall

DEVON’S coaches and players took plenty of positives out of Sunday’s narrow loss to Cornwall in their opening match of the Jason Leonard Under-20 County Championships. 

Devon were heartbreakingly beaten 25-24 in Camborne, having led 18-7 at half-time. 

They were also 24-18 in front with just eight minutes to go at the Recreation Ground, but a late try and brilliant touchline conversion secured Cornwall the victory. 

However, Devon still have a good chance of progressing to the knockout stages of the competition if they can beat Dorset & Wiltshire at Ivybridge on February 27. 

Coach Chris Frankland said: “It was a little bit frustrating in terms of the outcome, but the performance is what it is all about and I was really proud of what the boys have done. I was really impressed with them.” 

In the second half, playing uphill, Devon had to defend for lengthy spells but did it well. 

“We were down at the bottom of the hill and we had to defend hard but I thought the boys did a really good job,” said Frankland.  

“Our back three always looked dangerous. They could have done with a bit more ball, but I thought the whole team were impressive and did themselves proud. 

“It was very edging towards the end and it could have gone either way, but, unfortunately, Cornwall just beat us on the day. 

“We will go away now and reflect and we will come back stronger in the next game. If the boys put in another performance like this at Ivybridge then I think we will be in a good place.” 

Full-back Fred Smale, who scored Devon’s first try on Sunday, said: “We battled them all the way and our defence was great. 

“I think we were unlucky with the result. 

“We now have a month to train (before the next game). I think Cornwall have been training since the start of the year whereas we’d only had two training sessions. So, to perform like we did was really good. 

“We will dust ourselves down, get back to training and then in a month go again at Ivybridge.” 

Devon, playing down the slope, made a great start with OPM full-back Smale scoring in the 10th minute after a good run by dangerous winger Cameron Grizzle-Johnson. Brixham’s Bradley McKee brilliantly converted. 

Cornwall reduced the gap with a penalty by Joe McCarthy, but four minutes later Devon got a second try in the same spot courtesy of Exmouth centre Sam Plumer, which McKee again converted. 

The hosts, with full-back Harry Larkins impressing, hit back with a try in the right corner by winger Lachan Surridge following a cross-field kick from McCarthy with the referee playing advantage. 

However, McKee put Devon two scores ahead again with a penalty on 32 minutes. 

Cornwall pressed just before half-time, but Devon did really well to keep them out and steal a five-metre line-out, despite having Smale unfortunately sin-binned for what the referee deemed a professional foul. 

But, the home side came flying out of the blocks for the second period and reduced the gap to four points after just five minutes with a try from a catch-and-drive move from number eight Alfie Pilcher. 

And, less than 10 minutes later, they scored a similar try in the same spot courtesy of hooker Tyler Dower. 

Devon were finding it hard to get out of their half, but eight minutes from time the impressive Grizzle-Johnson, currently studying at Cardiff Met, scored a stunning interception try, which McKee converted to put the visitors six points ahead. 

Devon just needed to try and see the clock down, but Cornwall got the ball and pressed and, with the referee playing advantage again, they kicked to the corner and Jack Davies was there to touch the ball down. Crucially, McCarthy, who had missed his three previous conversion attempts, put this one over to edge his side one point in front. 

But Devon, despite having James Hocking sin-binned, still had one last chance to win it. They got a host of penalties and Cornwall were reduced to 14 men. Devon turned down a tough penalty kick at goal to go for the corner. They won the line-out and pressed. Eventually they went for the drop-goal to seal the win, but it fell short and Cornwall survived. 

Devon U20s: Fred Smale (OPM), Cameron Grizzle-Johnson (Cardiff Met), Sam Plumer (Exmouth), Jason Capaldi (Brixham), Fraser Felton (Marjon), Bradley McKee (Brixham), Ollie Latto (Paignton); George Montgomery (Ivybridge), Jacob Winters (Ivybridge), Matthew Hicks (Exmouth), Liam Bayley (Exmouth), Warren Goss (Barnstaple), James Hocking (Devonport Services), Jack Brooks (Cullompton, capt), Devlin Welch (Cullompton). Reps: Saul Holiday (Okehampton), Brandon Moore (Barnstaple), Ben Owens (Exmouth), Oli Symons (Devonport Services), Ryan Smaridge (Okehampton), Toby Lean (Devonport Services), Joe Dodge (Crediton). 

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