CORNWALL (12) 45
DEVON (0) 0
By Gareth Davies at Tregorrick Park
Matt Shepherd was the star of Cornwall’s show as the Duchy retained the Tamar Cup with a hard fought win over Devon at Tregorrick Park.
In wet and windy conditions, Shepherd, who captained Cornwall on his home stomping ground, took his own individual try scoring tally in 2022-23 to 36, continuing a remarkable campaign for the 32-year-old.
Against a spirited, but ultimately outclassed Devon side, the hosts only led 12-0 at half-time but after the tinterval, Cornwall really turned on the style to win the first Tamar Cup since 2019, owing to the covid-19 pandemic.
Cornwall were forced to make one change before kick-off with Truro number 8 Tom Duncan pulling out after his wife went into labour. This saw Andy Inch move from the second row to the base of the scrum with Camborne’s Jack Heazleton coming into the starting line-up.
In front of a huge crowd, which was estimated to be in excess of 1,000, Shepherd scored Cornwall’s first try after just 11 minutes when he cut back on the inside to go under the posts and the extras were added too. The next 15 minutes of play were scrappy as both sides made handling errors as conditions worsened but Cornwall scored again through Shepherd with a stunning effort out wide.
Cornwall’s second try went unconverted and the 10 minutes before half time saw Devon enjoy their best spell of the game.Testing Cornwall’s defensive line, Mark Vian was sent to the sin bin by referee James Miliner and then, playing with a penalty advantage, Honiton’s Jake Smith appeared to have scored in the Hospital corner only for merry flag waver Ash Gilder to rule a foot in touch.
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After the interval, Cornwall gradually found their straps and once back to a full complement they scored three tries in eleven minutes to ensure local bragging rights stayed this side of the Tamar.
Aaron Simmonds’ try, converted by Shepherd, gave Cornwall a 19-0 lead and from this point on, the home side never looked back.
Simmonds’ Camborne team mate Liam Jolly stretched Cornwall’s tally with the Black and Gold’s fourth score of the evening before Shepherd duly completed his hat-trick with 18 minutes left, plucking a long ball out of the air to dance over.
Showing he is human after all, Shepherd missed the conversion and as the game wore on, both sides made a raft of changes. This saw Devon go in search of points that their efforts would have merited, but Cornwall held firm and in the final five minutes, scored two further tries.
Pint-sized winger Danny Tyrrell, who, along with Shepherd, has enjoyed a stellar season for St Austell, scored a try which drew a huge cheer from the partisan Tregorrick Park crowd. Shepherd nailed a wonderful touchline conversion but Cornwall weren’t quite ready to put their collective cues on the rack yet.
In the dying embers, Camborne flanker Jordan Nicholls broke down the middle and after outpacing the would-be Devon defence, dotted down under the sticks. The game then ended as it started with Shepherd scoring points for Cornwall as he slotted over his fifth conversion from seven attempts.
Although sterner tests will surely await Cornwall as they look to defend their County Championship campaign when it starts in May, their 2023 campaign has started in the best possible fashion with victory over Devon and local bragging rights secured.
Cornwall: Shepherd, Kessell, Parsons, Semmens, Levick, Simmonds, Boyce; Job, Davey, Prowse, Vian, Heazelton, Taylor, Nicholls, Inch. Replacements: Bentham, Southworth, Lambourn, Edwards, Jolly, Brownfield, Sidwell, Tyrrell.
Tries: Shepherd (11,26,63), Simmonds (52), Jolly (57), Tyrrell (76), Nicholls (79). Conversions: Shepherd 5/7Yellow card: Inch (39)
Devon: Hellier, Holwill, Brown, Smith, Squire, McKee, Gibbs; White, Barmaschone, Burbage, Woodhead, Garratt, Armstrong, O’Neil, McGrattan. Replacements: Marchant, Blyth, Turner, Cave, Oxland, Sharples, Fear, Legg, Charlton.
Referee: James Milliner (RFU)
[Picture: Simon Bryant / Iktisphoto]