Mission and Brief History
- to carry out the directions and obligations as a Constituent Body (CB) as outlined by the RFU.
- to support develop improve and expand the community game at all levels within Devon.
- to provide the opportunity for representative rugby at all ages as a pathway to progress to the highest level possible.
- to lead on initiatives to develop the game and its core values providing the infrastructure - physical and human - to make this possible.
- to maintain the sustainability and well being of our CB Clubs providing a safe and pleasant environment.
Devon RFU – Short History
The Devon County Football Club which was formed in 1877 had no administrative role within the county. It was purely the name given to a team that represented the County on the field. The first recorded County game was played against Somerset in March 1876 at Taunton, Devon the victors by a goal to nil.
The game was billed as ‘The Gentlemen of Somerset v The Gentlemen of Devon’.
The Devon players were selected mainly from three Clubs, Exeter, Teignmouth and Torquay plus some from out of the County. This continued until 1881 when other Clubs, and there were many, felt their players were not being given an equal opportunity to represent the County. It was then that The Devon County Football Association was formed and properly organised regional trials were held upon which selection would be based.
In 1889, the New Zealand Maoris were the first overseas opponents for Devon and their style of rugby was much admired as they defeated the County 13-0.
This was a time of huge growth of the game with Clubs cropping up in almost every village and town. Indeed there were twenty different clubs in Exeter alone, some running two teams. Villages such as Dolton and Ashreigney in North Devon, Ottery St Mary and Axminster in the East, several in Torquay and Plymouth. Some lasted only a season or so, others continued for many years.
The County team suffered a few lean years until 1899 when the first of 10 County Championship finals was won, defeating Northumberland 5-0 at Newcastle.
The Following year the County reached the final again, losing 11-3 against Durham at Exeter. The 1902 final was a repeat of the previous one but this time at West Hartlepool with Devon winning 14-3.
In 1905, of course, Devon were the first opponents for the New Zealand touring side on their first official visit to the UK (see picture above). The general view was that Devon would be too strong for the tourists, a view that changed somewhat rapidly when the Kiwis won 55-4 and went on to lose only one of their 30 games.
Devon and Durham battled out two more finals, in 1906 Devon won convincingly at Exeter 16-3 and in 1907 the Final at West Hartlepool ended as a 3-3 draw and even a replay at Exeter could not end the stalemate which finished as a no score draw.
In 1906, the South Africans played Devon at Devonport and won 22-6 and in 1908, Devon continued to be a popular venue for tourists as Australia came ove and defeated the County side 24-3 (see picture below).
As so often seemed the way for Devon, County Championship finals seemed to come in successive seasons. 1911 saw Yorkshire defeated 12-3 at Leeds and the following year at Devonport, Northumberland were well beaten 29-0. Later that year, the South Africans returned to Devon and won 8-0 at Exeter.
Despite the success of the County side, many clubs in Devon were folding. One possibility is the increase in popularity of soccer. Exeter for example now had a professional soccer team and were attracting crowds of 8000-10000 each week. Local soccer teams were pulling players away from rugby which was by now in steep decline in Devon.
However, early 1914 saw the Devon team go on tour to France where the defeated Bordeaux University 8-6.
Post WW1, very little success on the field for the County although in 1924, the All Blacks paid a second visit to the County and won again but this time only by 11-0 (Video highlights of that game at The Rectory can be viewed below).
In 1926, Stade Francais were the visitors and Devon were defeated 5-8 at Torquay and also the New Zealand Maoris returned 37 years after their first visit. This time Devon won comfortably 20-0.
The Devon County Football Association celebrated it’s Jubilee in 1937with a game against Wavell Wakefields International XV who ran out winners 8-5.
It was not until 1957 that the County reached another final, this Yorkshire were entertained and defeated at Torquay 9-3. In 1961 Cheshire were the final opponents and the game drawn 0-0 at Plymouth and we were defeated 3-5 in the replay at Birkenhead.
Thirty nine years later (2000) and Devon met and lost against Yorkshire in the County Final at Twickenham which by now had been the chosen venue for the County Championship Final although the competition itself no longer enjoyed the support that it once had.
The County reached five successive finals between 2004 and 2008. The first ended in victory over Gloucestershire 43-14. This was followed by a 22-16 victory over Lancashire who then gained revenge the following year 32-26. A third successive final against Lancashire was won by Devon 27-6 and finally, Yorkshire won the 2008 Final 33-13.
(Our thanks to Paul Harris for this information)