Late agony for Devon in final County Championship group match against Kent
DEVON suffered an agonising 28-20 defeat in their final County Championship group match against Kent at Barnstaple on Saturday.
The home team led 17-0 at the break and were 20-14 up with 80 minutes up on the clock, but Kent scored two injury-time tries to grab victory and finish third in the six-team pool.
Devon had been forced to make wholesale changes to their team due to injuries and unavailabilities, but the players that came did the shirt proud.
They took the lead in the 10th minute when Ivybridge lock George Wilson scored a fine try that was made by Newton Abbot’s Martin Browne, who had a big game in the back-row along with Matt Gohl.
Teenager Mitch Pinkus, making his first senior start at fly-half, added the conversion to make it 7-0.
Devon should have scored a second try on 24 minutes but dropped the ball in the right corner after some good backs play.
With centres Ollie Rice and Ryan Lee impressing both in defence and attack, Devon continued to keep Kent at bay.
And in the 35th minute they increased their lead when Ivybridge scrum-half Ben Watts scored his first competitive try for the county when he won the race to a kick through to touch down behind the posts. Pinkus converted that and also added a penalty before half-time to make it 17-0.
Kent did press hard on stroke of half-time but Devon defended really well to keep them out.
The visitors did come out strongly for the second period and finally got on the board with their opening try on 50 minutes courtesy of Blackheath flanker Tom Stradwick. Frank Reynolds converted.
Captain Stradwick then added a second try on 61 minutes following a catch-and-drive move, which Reynolds converted to put them three points behind.
The impressive Pinkus kicked a penalty four minutes later to put Devon 20-14 up, but that was his last involvement due to injury.
His injury was a big blow for Devon in the closing stages as they struggled to kick clear and find touch in his absence.
However, it did look like they were going to hold out, but six minutes into injury-time Kent prop Aaron Cooper bundled his way over from close range after intense pressure and Reynolds crucially converted to put Kent 21-20 ahead.
The referee decided there was still time to play, but Devon could not take advantage and Stradwick completed his hat-trick in the dying seconds.
Head coach Dan Parkes said: “It has been tough campaign and going forward things have to change. Clubs have got to buy into it to put Devon back where it was.”
On Saturday’s match, he added: “We had a great first half, we put the energy in and the intensity was right up there, but you could physically see it drop off after half-time.
“Kent got the ascendency and they kept it on. We were always holding on.
“A few missed touches near the end. He we found touch it could have made the difference. We’d have had the ball for the last five minutes.
“But credit to the boys. We had to pull a team together at the last minute, but everyone put in a great performance.”
DEVON: C Briant (Ivybridge), W Topps (Barnstaple), O Rice (Exmouth), R Lee (Barnstaple), J Bond (Newton Abbot), M Pinkus (Ivybridge), B Watts (Ivybridge), R Morris (Brixham), A Taylor (Exmouth), I Dalton (Exmouth), J Rice (Honiton), G Wilson (Ivybridge), M Gohl (Barnstaple), A Priest (Bideford), M Browne (Newton Abbot). Reps: B Drew (Barnstaple), N Bayet (Barnstaple), G Snell (Bideford), D Armstrong (Exmouth), O Cave (Honiton), G Price (Newton Abbot), H Ridgeway (Exmouth).
Scorers: Tries: Wilson, Watts; Cons: Pinkus; Pens: Pinkus 2
KENT: R Redman (Tonbridge), T Okenla (Gravesend), B Hough (Elthamians), A Clement (Medway), R Raybe (Charlton Park), F Reynolds (Tunbridge), C Spence (Turnbridge), A Cooper (Canterbury), J Bonner (Westcombe Park), R Conlon (Tunbridge), R Cadman (Canterbury), L Coughlan (Sidcup), T Stradwick (capt, Blackheath), A Everett (Sevenoaks), T Baldwin (Blackheath). Reps: H Fry (Blackheath), T Simmons (Sevenoaks), J Hawkins (Blackheath), S Garofalo (Medway), H Hall (Medway).
Scorers: Tries: Stradwick 3, Cooper; Cons: Reynolds 4
Referee: Kevin Williams (RFU)