Cockles suffer Devon Cup final defeat at Barnstaple
- Credit: Archant
Exmouth were beaten in the final of the 2019 Devon Cup, going down 61-22 to Barnstaple.
With the final scheduled for Easter Saturday and a holiday weekend, the fixture was always going to be a tough ask for the Cockles who had a large number of regulars unavailable and so it was a young looking squad that travelled up the North Devon Link Road for the contest.
However, despite the final; score, the Cockles gave their all from first whistle to last and there was bags of heart and determination on display for what was another exceptional number of travelling supporters!
Ultimately promotion chasing Barnstaple – Barum finished as runners-up to all-conquering South West premier champions Bournemouth and now face a play-off to see if they can join the Hampshire side at the next level.
The Cockles skipper-for-the-day, James Harris marshaled his young troops and definitely led by example throughout the afternoon.
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Harris, along with fellow back row Connor O’Shaughnessy, stand-in number ten, Mark Wathes and centre Nick Headley, were the only regular first teams players in the starting line-up such was the availability woes faced by the Cockles.
Barnstaple made a powerful start and scored three tries inside the opening 20 minutes before the Cockles got on the score board themselves.
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That opening Exmouth score came from a penalty tucked between the posts by scrum half Sam Fulthorpe.
Two more tries on the half hour put the hosts well in front before the Cockles got some reward for their incursions in to the Barum red zone.
Industrious back row Ethan Langson Justice was on the end of some great forward work to score his try just before the break.
The Fulthorpe conversion was wide of the mark and the teams trooped off at the interval with Barum holding a 33-8 advantage.
During the first half, the Cockles did make inroads into Barum territory with Harvey Ridgeway, George Mears, and Will Hockin, trying to get the ball out wide.
Just after the restart Barnstaple struck again, before the Cockles settled in to a clearer pattern of play. In fact, for the following 20 minutes the Cockles enjoyed the better period of play with their front row, Charlie Tribble, James Goss with Paul Flower, carrying well, deep into home territory.
In the engine room, second row players Erin Inglis and Will Bright put themselves around the park supported by the ever present back row.
On 60 minutes, after a prolonged spell of pressure, Erin Inglis finally cut through the defence to score close to the posts, converted by Sam Fulthorpe.
Four minutes later, after some tricky footwork from Jake Inglis, mercurial Mark Wathes ghosted in close to the post for try number three, once again converted by Fulthorpe.
The Cockles had started to unload their bench during the final 20 minutes and handed first team debuts to Callum Wood, Matt Seager, Connor Smithers and Andrew Smith, with a returning Tony Emmins taking to the field.
Barnstaple did run in two more scores close out the day. Tries from Winston James, Will Topps, Jake Murphy, Luke Berry and Kevin Angell with conversions from Murphy completed their afternoon.
Always a tough ask for the Cockles with so many regular first team starters unavailable. However, those that wore the shirt on the day deserved the rich applause they took from both sets of supporters for their commitment to compete.