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Cullompton snatch dramatic win in Devon Intermediate Shield final

08 May 2022 14:14 | Devon RFU

TWO tries in the last five minutes – the second in time added on – earned Cullompton an improbable 24-23 win over Topsham in the final of the Devon Intermediate Shield, writes Conrad Sutcliffe.

Topsham, who had a raucous home crowd urging them on, eased into a 23-14 lead after 67 minutes when full-back Dec Handley strode over for a try.

Cullompton remained nine points behind until the 78th minute when centre Tom Frankpitt shot through near the posts to leave two points in it.

Added time was almost up when Cullompton kicked a penalty into Clubhouse Corner, set-up a drive from the ensuing line-out and prop Chris Grant broke away to touch down by the corner flag.

It was the last play of the game – both sides knew that – which meant Cully’s one-point lead would win it irrespective of Josh Luxon’s conversion kick. It missed.

Alex Brooks the Cullompton player-coach, said winning the Devon Intermediate Shield was the icing on the cake of a season that got better and better as it went along, culminating in a provisional promotion place into Western Counties West next season.

 “It was a very good game with two good sides going for it,” said Brooks.

“We didn’t get the rub of the green in the game, but we kept fighting and got the result.

“I felt it was fully deserved for the season we have had.”

Sean Mardell, the Cullompton captain, said it was stopwatch pressure that turned the game his side’s way.

“To be honest we did not play well at all and gifted them their points by making errors and giving away penalties,” said Mardell.

“I think that time running out made us switch on as we knew we had to keep hold of the ball if we were going to wipe out Topsham’s nine-point lead.

“It was the most memorable game I have played for Cullompton and a great way to end my time as captain.

“I lost a Devon Cup final in my first season as captain so it was nice to bow out by winning one.”

Ross Bovingdon, the Topsham player-manager, said some tight calls that went against his side did not help but could not be blamed for the result either.

“I am convinced Cullompton knocked-on in the build up to one of their tries – and there was some controversy about whether the ball was grounded in play or not,” said Bovingdon.

“Just before they scored in the corner the touch-judge put his flag up, but either changed his mind or was over-ruled by the referee as he put it down again and the try was given.

“At other times our discipline wasn’t great and cost us three yellow cards and a period playing two men short. That was not great, although we did score a try when we only had 13 on the pitch.

“Overall it was a tremendous game between two totally different sides: their massive forwards against our quick runners.

“Of course it would have been great to add the shield to promotion from the Cornwall & Devon Division, but we have had a massive year all round and I am proud of every single one of our players.”

Topsham were 15-5 up at half-time thanks to a brace of tries from Will Loughton – one a 90-metre dash up the pitch – plus a conversion and penalty from Jack Saunders, Sam Budgett had crossed in the fifth minute for Cully.

Two Luxon penalties got Cully back to 15-11 down before one each for Saunders and Luxon left the game balanced at 18-14 to Topsham.

Handley’s try after Alex Taylor did the hard work put Topsham 23-14 up on 67 minutes and that’s how it stayed as time ticked down.

Then came that dramatic finish and the tries from Frankpitt and Grant that swung the game Cully’s way.

Pictures courtesy of Bill Goff