Last match win gives Devon promotion to top division

THEY started the final British Inter County Championship weekend as fierce rivals, but finished it celebrating together as both Devon and Cornwall achieved the two promotion spots to the Premier division.

But Devon had to endure a nail-biting finale and did not have the best of starts after their Ladies B side, who had previously lost only once throughout the 2018-19 campaign, went down 4-2 to their hosts.

Tracy Ware (18.01) and Cat Callard (19.69), who both won 3-1, restored some pride after Devon lost the first four sets.

The Devon Men’s B side have not had the best of fortunes, winning only two of their previous eight, but when most needed, they delivered, and produced their best performance of the campaign with a 9-3 victory.

Lewis Dare (23.89) opened their account with a 4-2 success followed by Kieran Burns (26.27) who won 4-1 before Andy Aspinall (22.95) was taken the full distance but clinched the seventh and decisive leg in 18 with a 115 outshot.

Antony Moss (20.35) also won by the narrowest of margins as did Paul Palmer (24.91) and Antony Hayman (21.85).

John Burton (26.31) achieved a 4-1 success and winning by the same margin was Mark Turner (26.56), aided by a brace of 180s.

Finishing off an overwhelming 9-3 victory was man-of-the-match Neil White (28.23) who won 4-1, claiming the fifth leg in 15 when finishing at the first time of asking from 141.

Devon held an 11-7 advantage overnight and that lead remained after the Ladies A sides finished all square.

Chrissie Kinnaird (19.03) won 3-0 followed by a 3-2 success from Maria O’Brien (19.62) before Merryl Dennis (19.32) also won after going the full distance, aided by an 18-darter which she finished with the fixture’s highest checkout of 164.

It was now all down to the Men’s A team to salvage a victory but despite starting their match with a 14-10 lead, Cornwall wiped out that advantage when winning the first four sets.

Unperturbed, Devon rallied, and no one showed more grit and determination than Thom Humphrey (23.45) who came from 3-1 down to win 4-3, aided by an 18-dart leg which he finished with a kill of 113.

Paul Milford (28.02) once again showed why he caught the eye of the England selectors when hitting two maximums in a 4-2 victory, with legs won in 18, 15, 18, 16.

Glyn Wells (24.51) won 4-1 to put another Devon point on the scoreboard before former Cornwall marksman John Mann (33.12) produced the best performance from any player in the division.

He won 4-2 in 13, 12, 16 and 18, aided by three maximums and winning the 12-darter with throws of 140-140-100 before checking out from 121.

Devon now led 18-14 and just one more win would give them the victory which would also give them three very important bonus points.

Cornwall were not relenting and took the next two before Mike Pearce (27.14) (pictured) stepped up to the oche and delivered a 4-1 victory in 16, 16, 20 and 18, arguably one of the most important wins of his county career.

The hosts won the last point and had enough in hand to win the title by four points, but Devon had won the match 19-17 and those three bonus points were so vital which enabled Devon to clinch the remaining promotion spot with 200 points, just two in front of third-placed Dorset.

Paul Milford topped the Men’s A averages with an unblemished record and his dart/average of 37.96 was only bettered throughout the UK by Warwickshire’s Nigel Heydon (38.00) from the Premier division.

John Mann (36.48) finished a creditable fourth in the individual rankings while Maria O’Brien (29.84) was third placed in the Ladies’ A standings.

In the Ladies B table, Cat Callard (25.42) and Tracy Ware (24.88) were second and third respectively.

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