North Devon Raiders 18-30 Exeter Centurions
A SLOW start from the North Devon Raiders proved decisive as they crashed out of the South West Challenge Cup to the Exeter Centurions at Pottington Road on Saturday.
The hosts were ten points down after a quarter of an hour after a brace of tries from Ed Powell.
The Raiders hit back with a Mikey Sumner touchdown just before the first half drinks break when he crashed over through a four man defensive group to force the ball over, but the conversion was missed.
Five minutes from the break Alex Mills-Baker ran under the posts almost unopposed, with Stevens adding the extras.
Then, four minutes later, Stevens scored a try of his own, scooting from close range to extend the half time lead to 20-4.
Raiders had the best of the early exchanges following the restart, with Nigel East crashing over from close range in the opening set of six tackles and they were next to score with Jake Meredith stepping through a grasping defence to make it 20-12.
Tempers were beginning to flair as the temperature rose and, following an incident where Stevens and Raiders’ Ashlee Crouch were sent to the blood-bin by referee Melvin Betteridge, Exeter pounced on a lack of concentration in the North Devon defence as Gethin Jones wrestled through a gang tackle to touch down, 24-14.
The Raiders fought back though, Nigel East offloading in the tackle to brother Shaun to close the deficit.
The fast, dry pitch and the hot conditions began to take their toll on the players with mistakes at vital times cancelling out a number of scoring chances before Stevens swooped on a loose ball near his own line to race 90 metres, outpacing the chasing Raiders cover to slam the ball down and put the Centurions into a home South West Cup semi final against Devon Sharks. Todd Franklin kicked the final goal to give a final score of 30-18.
Raiders coach Stuart Harrison was disappointed that his side lost a game that he felt was there to be won, but he did take encouragement from the performance of his players, many of whom were making their league debuts.
Raiders have this weekend off before making a tough trip to last year’s Minor Premiers the Cornish Rebels at Redruth on May 31.