SALTASH are just one game away from Twickenham after beating Swindon College Old Boys 22-5 at Moorlands Lane on Saturday to win the South West Counties’ Senior Vase final.
They will now play London & South East champions Farnham in the national semi-final on April 15, with the winner heading to English rugby’s HQ to take on the North’s best.
Swindon arrived at Moorlands Lane with a formidable record this season. They are runaway leaders of the Berks/Bucks & Oxon Premier League and up until two weeks ago they had not lost a single game. They had also won 85-0 in their last outing.
But, like against unbeaten Somerset side Winscombe in the last round, Saltash showed they are not intimidated by anyone’s records.
They once again proved that they can defend and soak up pressure, as well as take chances when they come – even in tricky conditions.
The Ashes also showed that they can still win without prolific winger Will Morton, who is out of the rest of the season after breaking a metatarsal in his foot this month.
The Cornwall/Devon League side went behind on 31 minutes when Swindon scored what were to be their only points with an unconverted try.
But within seven minutes fly-half Harrison Reuben kicked a penalty to reduce the deficit.
And just before the interval, winger James Moriarty, who had been influential in the last round, scored the Ashes’ first try to give them an 8-5 lead at the break.
That became 15-5 after half-time when Lewis Wells went over for number two and centre Shaun Crawford sealed the match with a third touch-down.
Meanwhile, in the Cornwall/Devon League, Plymouth Argaum eased their relegation worries with a vital 24-14 win at Topsham.
Had Argaum lost they would have been in serious trouble. As it is now, they have a little bit of breathing space as they are eight points ahead of Honiton and Bodmin with four games to go.
However, Argaum’s final four matches are against Lanner, Paignton, Penryn and the Pirates Amateurs, so they will not be getting carried away just yet.
They managed to hit Topsham early and went 14-0 up after eight minutes thanks to tries by lock Kevin Sidebottom and centre Jake Turfrey. Al Murray converted both of them.
Murray then added a penalty to give Argaum a 17-0 half-time lead.
The Bickleigh Down club then went 24-0 in front with a try by winger Matt Bankhead, which Murray brilliantly converted from the touchline.
Second-from-bottom side Topsham did come back and score two tries, but Argaum, who had 18-year-old colt Alex Cameron impressing at full-back, had done enough to take the four valuable points.