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Exeter University lift the Devon Senior Cup for the first time

01 May 2022 10:28 | Devon RFU

THREE tries in the last 10 minutes sealed University of Exeter’s 54-32 win over Exmouth in the final of the Devon Senior Cup, writes Conrad Sutcliffe.

The students had not lifted Devon’s oldest piece of silverware before but, based on league form were red-hot favourites to lift the trophy. They had already won the South West Premier Division and started planning for National League rugby long before the final at Exmouth kicked-off.

As Exmouth had lost 45-5 to the University when the sides met in the league in mid-March, it appeared there was only one likely outcome.

But for 70 minutes it was a real ding-dong of a cup final and at that point Exmouth only trailed 35-32.

Two tries in three minutes from the University centre Kian Gentry, both converted by Ben Hammersley, pushed the Students comfortably clear. A late maul-over score for replacement hooker Scott Butterworth wrapped things up.

Richard Hodge, the University team manager, said although it looked a comfortable victory the reality was it was a game won the hard way.

“We were not at the races at all in the first half and against a side that played well and were physical we made little headway,” said Hodge.

“Discipline seemed a problem for us and we did not help ourselves by collecting three yellow cards. That’s a long time to play one man short.

“Around the 60-65-minute mark you could sense Exmouth were starting to tire at the effort of playing at our pace for so long and looked out on their feet.

“We still had another five per cent in the tank and in the time left used our pace outside to go round Exmouth.

“It was a cracking game and anyone who saw it would have had great entertainment.”

Kofi Barton-Byfield opened the scoring for the University with a breakaway try after two minutes. Hammersley converted.

Matt Ryan got a try back from a line-out for Exmouth that George Meadows converted.

Hammersley’s self-converted try on 20 minutes put the Exeter students back in front and there they stayed, although not always by much of a margin. Two Meadows penalties left Exmouth 14-13 down at the break.

The second half started with a bang as Barton-Byfield scored straight from the restart kick and Hammersley converted. Back came Exmouth with a Lewis Geran try that Meadows improved to leave a point in it again.

Wing Will Becconsall and full-back Hammersley scored two in a row for the University. The conversions took their lead to 35-20.

Exmouth were not finished yet and got back to 35-32 by the 70th minute thanks to tries from Dave Bargent and Jack Madge, the first of which was converted.

The game was won and lost in the eight minutes between Gentry’s first try and Butterworth’s effort.

Roger Holman, the Exmouth team manager, said: “We finished the game held-up on their line and had we got that try the scoreline would have been closer to the actual game.

“Our commitment was brilliant and we definitely did not disgrace ourselves. We worked hard and were credible opposition, but when it came to it at the end they just had too much pace for us.”