Devon led 16-9 but had to wait until final game for win

DEVON had to endure a nail-biting finale in their British Inter County Championship fixture against Dorset, despite leading their division one promotion rivals 16-9.

Devon have always relied on the Ladies’ B side to lay down the foundations for victory and for the fifth time this season they did not disappoint when defeating their rivals 5-1.

Kelly-Marie Gabriel (18.56), Sarah Brown (18.56) and Hayley Brant (15.82) all won in three straight legs while Tracy Ware (15.28) won 3-1 and lady-of-the-match Cat Callard (18.62) came from 2-0 down to win by the odd leg in five.

Dean Angell (25.38) pushed the scoreline to 6-1 in Devon’s favour at the start of the Men’s B fixture when, after trailing 3-1, he took the remaining legs in 16, 15 and 18 for an emphatic victory.

The visitors pulled one back only for Devon to move 8-2 in front when Mark Turner (26.79) and Lee Hellings (22.75) both won by a 4-1 margin.

Dorset then took three on the bounce before Devon took four of the last five in a strong finish.

Neil White (25.18) and Liam Goyne (25.04) were both 4-2 winners followed by a 4-0 success for Dave Matthews (24.14) and despite the penultimate point being taken by Dorset, Lewis Dare (24.15) came out on top after having to go the full seven legs.

Devon led 12-6 overnight and still held a six-point advantage after the Ladies’ A team had to settle for a share of the spoils.

Merryl Dennis (21.17) justified her recall to the side with a 3-0 victory and Jodie Hawton (18.02) won 3-2 before another outstanding performance from Maria O’Brien (pictured) gave her the lady-of-the-match award when finishing with a 28.90 average.

The England international won the first two legs in 19 and 18 before finishing a 15-darter with an outshot of 101.

Mark Shears (23.86) put in a good performance to win the opening set of the Men’s A fixture 4-0, which put Devon in the driving seat at 16-9.

But from there in, it was a hard slog to say the least.

Devon could only muster five legs from the following four sets as the visitors closed the gap to 16-13 before Paul Milford (29.04), who earlier in the week had won an England call-up for the first time, won 4-0 in 20, 15, 17 and 17.

Dorset pulled back another before John Mann (26.78) emerged a 4-1 winner to put his side 18-14 up with four to play.

The visitors would not give up. And to their credit, won the next three, despite two of them going the full five legs.

So it all came down to the final set . . . and Devon’s Thom Humphrey (23.99) was the man who had to either salvage a victory or hand Dorset a share of the spoils.

Dorset’s Tommy Morris went 3-1 up in 17, 18 and 17 only for Humphrey to show his mettle and pull it back to 3-3 with two 18 darters of his own.

Both players had the chance of glory in the seventh and decisive leg, but it fell to the Totnes marksman when he hit his winning double with aplomb to rapturous applause from the Devon supporters.

Devon remain in the top four, six points behind leaders Cambridgeshire who will be their next opponents over the weekend of March 2/3.

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