Devon and Cornwall clash on Rugby League’s birthday
Devon and Cornwall clash tonight in the third annual County Championship Rugby League fixture which falls 117 years to the day since the Northern Union was formed at the George Hotel, Huddersfield.
The game at Bitton Park, Teignmouth for the Martin Roddy MBE Trophy kicks off at 7.30pm and comes just 10 days after Devon Sharks triumphed in the thrilling South West Grand Final which was held on the same ground.
Several of the victorious Devon Sharks and gallant runners up from North Devon Raiders will be back as brothers in arms tonight keen to keep up Devon’s 100% record in this fixture.
They will be joined by representatives of all the other Devon clubs, from Cup Winners Exeter Centurions, South West Nines Champions Plymouth Titans, and impressive newcomers Exmouth Saints.
They are also pulling in players from further afield, both dual-registered players in the professional ranks in Alex Stevens (Featherstone Rovers) and Chris Courtier (Leeds Rhinos), and in St Albans’ Devon-born Nick Woolley.
Indeed, Devon County RL has an abundance of talent to draw upon, players who have been playing Rugby League for years.
Cornwall, in contrast, are building themselves up for this clash with relatively little playing experience, but can at least draw upon a huge stock of talent and pride in Cornish Rugby.
This season, for the first time, they have been able to call upon one of their own to lead the charge.
Chris Richards is well known in Rugby League circles, as the founder-coach of Somerset Vikings and as a player and coach with the Royal Marines and the Royal Navy Veterans team. Chris is a qualified coach-educator and is also a trueborn Cornishman.
If anyone can tap into the pride and passion of Kernow and shape it into a credible Rugby League team, it’s Chris.
While this game is, in many ways, the rallying flag of the South West pioneers in Rugby League, the game is not, as is often said, foreign to these parts.
Rugby League’s history in the Westcountry is largely hidden, but is almost as long-standing as that of the other game with which it shares a common name and heritage.
Aside from being the third staging of the County clash, today’s game is also marking the Centenary of Professional RL in South Devon.
Torquay Athletic competed in the Northern Union just a few miles along the road from where the game is taking place this evening.
Devon v Cornwall
County Championship Rugby League
Wednesday August 29
Bitton Park, Teignmouth