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The History of the County Championship  
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Devon v. Gloucestershire South-West Group 1972

Gloucestershire came to Exeter in November 1972 as County Champions for the first time in 35 years. In their previous game they had beaten Cornwall, the only team to have beaten them the previous season in their run to the Championship, by 24 pts – 6 at Kingsholm. So Devon should have been a walk in the park.

My own match report, written that very evening, relates what happened. “Gloucestershire did not play very well and after taking a 12 pts – 3 lead with penalties they were pulled back to 12 pts all at half time. Then Pearn scored two more penalties for Devon and for the last twenty minutes Gloucestershire threw the ball around desperately. In the very last minute of proper time Peter Knight made an incredible run to score under the posts. Butler converted and Gloucestershire had drawn 18 pts – 18 to stay in the championship. Really thrilling! (I goal, 4 PG’s each)”.

Both sides proceeded to win their remaining group games, Gloucestershire beating Somerset and Devon, surprisingly, beating Cornwall in the last minute at Redruth to set up a Play-Off for the Group Title. And so the two sides met again at Kingsholm on 9th December.

It was the same story. At half time Gloucestershire led 16 pts – 6 thanks to two tries by England winger Alan Morley, Butler adding one conversion and 2 penalties. In the first fifteen minutes of the second half Devon turned the match on its head. Tries from Staddon and Warmington plus a conversion and another penalty from Pearn and Devon led 19 pts – 16. I remember that a group of students in the stand behind us started singing melancholic choral songs, adding to the sense of doom. But the Gloucestershire full back, Peter Butler, ever the man for a crisis, kicked two more penalties, one a superb effort from 50 yards and Gloucestershire were in front again with 10 minutes to go. The drama unfolded as Alan Pearn, the Bristol scrum half and normally a dependable place kicker, missed three penalties in the last ten minutes, one from near the posts. His remorse was equalled only by Gloucestershire’s relief.

Gloucestershire were through the Group stage once again, on their way to their fourth successive final, where they would lose 17 pts – 12 to Lancashire at Bristol Memorial Ground.