Promotion remains elusive target after winless campaign
DEVON coach Jason Luff said the limitations of playing county rugby at the end of a packed league season didn't help preparations for this season's Bill Beaumont Championship.
Kent defeated Devon 46-41 at Brixham on Saturday to set up a promotion decider against Somerset this weekend.
The winners will return to the top flight of championship rugby next season.
Devon made five Twickenham appearances between 2000-2007, winning the competition outright three times.
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Since slipping out of the top tier in 2010, Devon have lost every game they have played in the tournament.
Luff, who was part of the coaching team last season as well, accepts his neck could be on the line after the latest disappointment.
"My track record isn't very good, after all," agreed Luff.
Devon made a conscious decision two years ago to play Devon lads from their level five and level six clubs and avoid dipping into the talent pool at Plymouth Albion to help out.
Somerset and Kent both paraded teams with players from higher levels, not only that their preparation appeared better.
"We need more training time together if we want to progress and it is up to the county hierarchy to decide what they want to achieve in this competition," said Luff.
"The players came together for their first game – the Tamar Cup match against Cornwall – in a week where there are important league games going on at the end of the season and the Devon Cup final still to be played.
"Clubs don't want to put players forward if they are involved in play-off games or finals. That is understandable.
"The last two years have been about development and I am pleased to say we have brought a number of players on. The question I can't answer is how do we get any further with this group of players?
"We saw it against Somerset and again against Kent. We are up against players used to operating at a better level. We do well to compete against them."
Kent were ahead as early as the third minute when flanker Jamie Lindfield scored from a catch-and-drive move. It was the first of three before half time for the Westcombe Park wing-forward.
From then on it was ding-ding stuff right up to half time when the teams caught their breath with Kent 31-26 up.
Sidmouth's Sam Richardson went over twice for Devon, Launceston's James Tripcony bagged a try and Exmouth's Tom Kill wriggled over in the corner for one. Three of the four were converted by Sidmouth's Tom Wheelan.
Kent went 34-26 up thanks to a penalty early in the second half, but that kick-started Devon into action.
Barnstaple's Josh Squire kicked, chased and dotted down for Wheelan to convert to leave a point in it.
Two more Kent tries killed the game as a contest, although Devon pressed to the end with Brixham hooker Chey Bryce going over and Wheelan adding a penalty.
A minute's silence was observed prior to the match in memory of former Devon lock forward Duncan Christophers, who died last week aged 44.
Christophers played for Brixham before moving to Newton Abbot in 1996. A moving tribute was delivered by Brixham chairman Chris Forster before kick-off.
Christophers' funeral will take place this Friday at St Andrew's Church, Ashburton at 2pm.
Devon: tries – J Tripcony, S Richardson 2, T Kill, J Squires, C Bryce; cons – T Whelan 4; pen – T Whelan
Kent: tries - J Lindfield 3, M Beaumont 2, T May, M Burcham; cons – M Beaumont 4; pen – M Beaumont