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Parkes praises Devon's efforts after battling display against Gloucestershire

05 May 2018 22:33 | Sara Raine

DEVON head coach Dan Parkes praised his team for their efforts after they pushed Gloucestershire all the way at Brixham on Saturday in their opening County Championship match.

The Green and Whites eventually lost 38-26 after Gloucestershire scored a converted try and penalty in injury-time.

After going 21-3 behind in the first half, Devon hit back after the break and for most of the second half there were only two points in the game.

With the score finely poised at 28-26, Devon had three golden opportunities to take the lead, but somehow the visitors just managed to deny them before they sealed the match in added-on time.

“I think it took the lads a while to realise that they were good enough to do it against players who mostly play at a higher level,” said Parkes.

“In the second half we realised we could compete and, fair play to the boys, they put in a good shift.

“The forwards were excellent – they held their own in the scrum. Our line-out maybe wasn’t the best but I couldn’t fault the effort.”

Parkes felt had his team taken the lead in the final 10 minutes when they had so many chances they then would have gone on to win.

“We could have even gone for a drop-goal,” said Parkes. “There were definitely opportunities there for us to win it, but, hopefully, we can do that next week against Cornwall.

“The players now realise they can compete at this level.”

Devon had lost 55-12 to Gloucestershire in the opening game of last season’s competition, but this year’s contest was much different.

The hosts, playing up the Astley Park slope first half, had the first opportunity to put some points on the board when they were awarded a penalty after less than four minutes. Brixham fly-half Tom Putt went for goal, but his effort bounced back off the upright.

However, Devon did take the lead three minutes later after Ivybridge players Ben Watts and Charlie Briant linked up brilliantly after gathering a high kick by Gloucestershire. Scrum-half Watts made the initial break before putting in full-back Briant to score. Putt added the conversion.

The visitors, though, levelled on 22 minutes when they scored a well-worked try through centre Will Mansfield, which James Moffat converted.

And seven minutes later they went in front when they were awarded a penalty try after a good drive from a line-out. If that was not bad enough for Devon, they also had captain Nathan Hannay sin-binned.

Gloucestershire took advantage of the extra man to score a third try through scrum-half James Dean after flanker Will Keenan had stolen the ball in the middle of the field. The prolific Moffat again converted to make it 21-7.

Devon could have cut that gap just before the break when they were awarded another penalty, but Putt was just off-target.

However, the hosts made a great start to the second period with two tries within two minutes.

The first came from Barnstaple winger Jack Bond after more good link-up play between Watts and Briant.

And almost straight from the restart, Devon scored again when Okehampton centre Rhys Palmer, who had an impressive game, intercepted a pass in his own half and ran 55 metres to score. Putt converted to make it 21-19.

Gloucestershire went two scores up again on 59 minutes when Cinderford’s Kai Little stretched out well to score in the right corner. Moffat brilliantly added the conversion from the touchline.

But Devon cut the gap back to two points five minutes later when Barnstaple hooker Ashlee Crouch scored from a catch-and-drive move and Putt converted.

The next 10 minutes were nearly all Devon. They came agonisingly close to scoring in the right corner after they turned Gloucestershire over again, but they were just pushed into touch inches less than a metre away.

Bond was then denied in the other corner after a good break by Palmer.

Another turnover presented another opportunity on 76 minutes but after pressure Devon knocked on 10 metres from the line.

And, against the run of play, Gloucestershire sealed the game in the first minute of injury-time when replacement George Angel scored under the posts.

Then Moffat, who finished with a 100 per cent kicking record, gave the scoreline a flattering look when he kicked a penalty with the last play of the game.

Devon’s next game will be against Cornwall at Camborne next Saturday.

However, before that seven of Saturday’s squad will be playing in the Devon Senior Cup on Monday at Ivybridge.

Parkes was full of praise for Ivybridge for allowing their best players to feature for the county just two days before their big game against Exmouth.

“I would like to particularly thank the Ivybridge boys,” said Parkes. “Even though they have a cup final on Monday, seven of them came and put in a real shift. Without them we wouldn’t have had a team. Things like that mean a lot to Devon.”

DEVON: C Briant (Ivybridge), J Bond (Barnstaple), R Palmer (Okehampton), L Paterson (Ivybridge), M Crosscombe (Plymouth Albion), T Putt (Brixham), B Watts (Ivybridge), G Snell, A Crouch (Barnstaple), T White (Newton Abbot), N Hannay (Honiton), G Wilson (Ivybridge), W Sprangle (Tiverton), D Abrams (Okehampton), S Thomas (Brixham). Reps: A Hamilton (Taunton), A Taylor (Plymstock AO), W Vermigle (Ivybridge), T Coats (Plymstock AO),B  King (Ivybridge), J Nash (Brixham), M Grieveson (Ivybridge).

SCORERS: Briant, Bond, Palmer, Crouch; cons: Putt 3

GLOUCESTERSHIRE: J Moffat (Cinderford), S Hawley (Cinderford), W Mansfield (Newent), C Gellert (Newent), K Little (Cinderford), D Pointon (Cinderford), J Dean (Newent), J Smart (Cinderford), M Addis (Newent), J Elliot (Cinderford), R Hance (Old Patesians), R Fuller (Hartpury), R Webb (Newent), W Keenan (Cinderford), M Bennett (Cinderford). Reps: S Evans (Thornbury), D Dalevalle (Cinderford), J Frost (Old Patesians), G Angel (Old Patesians), G Phelps (Newent), H Hone (Cinderford), T Webb (Newent).

SCORERS: Tries:  Mansfield, penalty, Dean, Little, Angel; cons: Moffat 5; pen: Moffat

REFEREE: H Lowris (RFU)