Devon cream of county crop with veteran Dawe

Devon 43 Gloucestershire 14
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The Independent Online

The last time Devon won the County Championship was 1957. In the intervening 47 years the competition has changed out of all recognition. No longer do England selectors turn out seeking fresh talent, any more than these great West Country rivals can pack their teams with players from leading clubs.

The last time Devon won the County Championship was 1957. In the intervening 47 years the competition has changed out of all recognition. No longer do England selectors turn out seeking fresh talent, any more than these great West Country rivals can pack their teams with players from leading clubs.

There were no Gloucester or a Bristol players for the losers, which helps explain why Gloucestershire were denied a record 18th title. It was also to Devon's advantage that 15 of their squad were from Exeter and Plymouth Albion, all with National One experience.

However, both teams gave every ounce of commitment in an entertaining contest that Devon had in their pockets as the match reached the final quarter. Briefly, Gloucestershire hinted at a comeback, when Craig Jones drilled over the second of his three penalties, in the 55th minute, to get them within sight of Devon, having trailed 8-23 at the break.

But the Devon forwards, with the 44-year-old Graham Dawe as their talisman, were having none of it and gave their backs all the possession they needed to run in three tries in the last 11 minutes. The score flattered Devon, but they deserved to win. The Gloucestershire coach, Mike Rafter, acknowledged as much: "We hung in there almost to the end," he said, "but they were too powerful up front for us."

The foundations of Devon's triumph were laid in the first half. Recovering from Ed Crampton's early try, Devon scored two of their own from Pat Sykes and Wayne Reed, with Ed Barnes adding both conversions, a dropped goal, and two penalties. Devon took their try tally to six as Chris Lowrie, Ed Lewsey, Martin Worthington and Steve Perry completed their day.

Devon: Tries Sykes, Reed, Lowrie, Lewsey, Worthington, Perry; Conversions Barnes 2; Penalties Barnes 2; Drop Barnes Gloucestershire: Try Crampton Penalties Jones 3

Devon: G Kingdom (Exeter); M Worthington (Unattached), E Lewsey (Exeter), P Sykes (Plymouth Albion), L Arscott (Plymouth Albion) ( S Perry (Plymouth Albion) 77); E Barnes (Bedford), R John (Crediton) ( T Barlow (Plymouth Albion) 68); D Parkes (Plymouth Albion) ( T Mathias (Plymouth Albion) 73), G Dawe (Plymouth Albion) ( K Brooking (Exeter) 77), W Reed (Barnstaple) ( R Hopkins (Plymouth Albion) 77), S Gibbons (Exeter) ( J Hart (Brixham) 40-ht & 77), R Hunt (Unattached), A Miller (Exeter) ( C Hanson (Unattached) 68), D Thomas, C Lowrie (capt; Both Plymouth Albion).

Gloucestershire: N Bressington (Pertemps Bees) ( S Pollock (O Patesians) 74); A McRae (Lydney), E Crampton (Stroud), D Murray (Worcester) ( G Leadbeater (Newbury) 69), G Robertson (St Mary's); C Jones (Stourbridge), L Liggett (Coney Hill) ( T Down (Thornbury) 74); P Price (Lydney), B Lewis (Berry Hill) ( R Davies (Newbury) 69), A Martin (Cinderford) ( S Price (Cinderford) 74), J Bashford (Lydney), A Geary (Glos OB), R James (Cinderford, capt), S Williams (Dings Crusaders) ( N Smith (Weston-super-Mare) 74), V Murrell (Dings Crusaders) ( J Pettigrew (O Patesians) 69).

Referee: T Fisher (Cheshire).

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