GALLERY: Devon U15 girls make impressive start to their campaign
DEVON under-15 girls’ squad enjoyed an impressive start to their season by finishing unbeaten from the opening South West festival, which was held at Okehampton College on Sunday.
Cornwall were hosting the festival and it was originally planned for St Austell, but their pitches were unplayable and so the Duchy moved it to Okehampton.
The day was split into a 15-a-side round-robin event with Devon playing Gloucestershire, Somerset and Cornwall. There then followed by a seven-a-side competition against the same sides.
Devon’s under-15s had been unbeaten at the 15-a-side format for two years so the current team had a lot to live up, but they managed that in their opening outing of 2020.
They began with a 12-0 victory over Gloucestershire in the 15-a-side event.
With all but three girls making their county debut, nerves were understandable but they were not evident as Devon enjoyed much of the early possession and territory.
Some penetrating runs from Tilly Pulfer and Robyn Stockman got Devon on the front foot before an excellent kick from Hannah Daniel saw Gloucestershire under pressure conceding a turnover to captain Millie Sinclair Thomson. This resulted in good counter-attacking ball for Katie French to utilise and score just before half-time.
The second half saw the addition of all seven subs into the game, all of whom instantly making themselves known. Some probing carries from front-rowers Cloe Conner and Hannah Sams saw Devon enter the opposition half once again. It was from a resulting scrum that Kayleigh Priest picked from the base and went over with easy under the sticks. Katie Salter converted the effort shortly before full-time.
Devon then earned a 7-7 draw with Somerset in a fine spectacle of under-15 county girls’ rugby.
Somerset started with a much the higher tempo and their speed to the breakdown proved vital as they secured a number of turnovers in the early minutes leading to a converted try.
But the rest of the game saw Devon gradually fight back and find their feet against a very different style of play.
Some good defensive work from Alicia Stebbing, Bertie Sprague and Bethany Cann saw any Somerset attack halted in the early stages.
Good work at the breakdown from Lucy Moore and Charley Baker saw a penalty given Devon's way, which Niamh Shirley dually kicked to touch. From the resulting line out Somerset pulled down the Devon maul only for another penalty getting Devon beyond the Somerset 10-metre line.
Devon had plenty of chances but the try they threatened just would not come. However, with time up they finally got it. After some excellent organisational work from scrum-half Rosie Cadle and a number of strong pick and gos, it was captain Millie Sinclair-Thomson who got the critical score to the right of the uprights. Niamh Shirley calmly slotted the extras on the stroke of full-time to level the scores.
Devon then beat old rivals Cornwall 25-5 in their final 15-a-side match.
An even opening period saw both teams improving in structure but it was Devon who got the opening score after some fine hands from Katie Salter and Lucy Ward saw prop Hannah Sams charge over from 10 metres out.
Devon were quickly back on the attack when the ever-present Kayleigh Priest got back on the score sheet.
Some further good work from Lily Plowman saw her link well with Annabelle Bird, who stepped her way nimbly through the Cornish defence before Katie Salter finished off a well-worked move.
The second half saw Jodie Braslford introduced as captain and she capped off the honour by claiming a try from one of her trademark carries after a strong carry from Reagen Hoggins.
Fittingly, it was Tilly Pulfer who finished the days scoring for Devon as she evaded two tacklers to score a classic wingers try. Cornwall remained resilient and were rewarded with a score with seconds left on the clock.
Devon finished the day by winning their three seven-a-side match.
They opened up with a 10-5 victory over Somerset.
The Green and Whites got off to a great start off-loading excellently to enter the Somerset half but a spilt ball saw Somerset counter from their own line to get the opening score, despite a fantastic covering tackle from Rosie Tidball.
But this spurred Devon into life and they struck back almost immediately when an excellent passage of play linking Yazmin Atiya-Alla, Ashleigh Rollins and Lottie Reid saw sevens captain for the day, Mia Ryrie, score from close range.
It was not until the clock was in red in the second half for the deadlock to be broken again. Easily one of the tries of the day, saw an excellent wrap around move from a line-out pass through all seven players hands to which Hannah Lumley release Sophie Leeds to score the winner.
Devon’s sevens team then beat Cornwall 20-5 with some lovely free-flowing rugby.
But it was Cornwall who got the opening score. However, some excellent defensive work from Alice Crocker and Ellie Wood saw Devon enjoy some possession and two quick scores from Mia Ryrie saw them take the lead.
Devon continued to move the ball nicely in tricky conditions. Millie Richards was prominent linking players together and this paid off when Leah Warren was released down the left wing to touch down.
Georgia Kew, who had an excellent tournament, finished proceedings when she scored a fine solo effort.
Devon then ended the day with a 15-10 sevens victory over Gloucestershire.
Gloucestershire got out of the blocks quick and scored two long-range tries in no time.
In a feisty affair, Devon often found themselves dragged into a close quarter battle, but a good turnover from Hannah Lumley saw the ball reach Alice Crocker, who finished a well-worked move to drag a score back before half-time.
The second period saw Devon once again ring the changes and they benefitted highly after a mazy run from Ellie Wood, which saw her link well with Yazmin Atiya-Alla only to receive the ball back and score a fine try.
Both teams went looking for a winning score, but it was beginning to look like a draw would be on the card, but Sophie Leeds had other ideas as she shrugged a tackled only to outpace the nearest defenders and score the winning try once again in the final play of the game.
Coach Hammy Kerswill said afterwards: “It was an excellent day despite conditions and saw Devon increase their 15-a-side winning streak to 15 game in a row over the last three seasons and the sevens team continuing last year’s success bu winning all three of their fixtures.
“The girls will be back in action in two weeks time as they travel away to Gloucestershire for the longest of their away festivals.”