Exmouth are already planning for the return to National Three South West next season as the dust settles on their 31-12 Devon Senior Cup win over Newton Abbot.
The Cockles ended a challenging campaign on a high note by retaining the cup for a third successive year.
Two tries from Ross Morshead and a third by Richard Bright paved the way for victory over an outgunned All Whites outfit.
Exmouth failed in their bid to become established in National Two South during the season just ended and were relegated straight back where they came from.
Relegation means dual-registered trio Luke Chapman, Todd Lowry and Dan Pullinger-Ham will be recalled by Exeter Chiefs and almost certainly reassigned elsewhere.
Head coach Jon Hill said while he will be sad to lose the talented trio, none of whom started in the cup final, the future looks promising.
“The three dual-registered players will be moving to a higher level next season – National One or maybe the Championship,” said Hill.
“Alex Brown might be leaving us to go to university, but other than that we will have nucleus of our existing squad plus a few.
“Coming back we have front rows Shane Cooper and hopefully Mark Halse, neither of whom have played this season, Jack Downie and Paul Morgan.
“We have just signed Jack Pyne from Sidmouth, who will be hooking up with his brother Ollie next season.
“While you don’t turn quality players away, we are not actively looking for anyone else.”
Hill said it would be easy to read too much into the win over Newton Abbot as a portent for next season, when the sides are in the same division again.
While the margin of victory justified a certain optimism, sustaining that level of performance over eight months will be a challenge.
“We haven’t played Newton Abbot this season and my first impression was they are a better side who play a lot more rugby than they did,” said Hill.
“Newton were ahead three times in the match, but in the first half they only got into our 22 once and that was when they scored a try.
“Other than in the line-out we were better than them at the scrums and in broken-field play.
“There was a definite gulf between us – and I mean no disrespect by that – and you could see Newton struggling to live with our tempo. It showed we have been playing at a higher level for a season.”
Hill picked out scrum-half Matt Newman and No. 8 Martin Browne as Newton’s stand-out performers in his view.
“Newman was outstanding at scrum-half and Browne did superbly well to get the ball away from a scrum that was always going backwards,” said Hill.
Roy Henderson, Newton’s director of rugby, said he had no complaints about losing but wasn’t convinced the scoreline did his side justice.
“A 31-12 win flattered them as they were not that much better than us,” said Henderson.
“Three times in the match we went ahead and at 12-11 up with 25 minutes to go and a strong wind behind us we should have gone on to win.
“It seemed we got in front and just stopped playing.”
Exmouth led 11-8 at half-time thanks to a couple of George Meadows penalties and a Morshead try to a Newman try converted by Josh Smith.
A Laurence May try put Newton back in front, but not for long.
Bright winged in, Morshead rumbled over for his second and both conversions plus a couple of Meadows penalties settled the issue.