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GALLERY: New-look Saltash take their chances in pre-season match with Oaks, while OPMs show their depth

WESTERN Counties West side Saltash got their pre-season campaign up and running with a 26-14 win over Cornwall/Devon League outfit Plymstock Albion Oaks at Horsham Fields on Saturday.

Oaks, who had beaten Kingsbridge and Tamar Saracens in their other pre-season fixtures, were leading 14-7 at the break with tries from 17-year-old number eight Pete Keanie and winger Kieran Jamieson, both converted by Tom Richards.

Saltash’s only try in the opening 40 minutes came from player-coach Lewis Wells from a catch-and-drive move, which Harrison Reburn converted.

But after the break, when they were playing down the slope, Saltash showed a clinical edge with lock Matt Scott going over from another line-out move early on before Will Morton and Todd Croft scored brilliant tries from great back moves from scrums in their own half.

Oaks, who had switched their team around during the game, had their chances to add to their tally in the final 20 minutes but could not take them.

Despite the defeat, Plymstock player-coach Aiden Taylor was satisfied with his team’s display in their final pre-season outing.

“I was really happy with the performance,” said Taylor. “In the set piece – scrum and line-out  – they couldn’t touch us and they are a league above. That was very positive from our point of view.

“We made the changes and conceded two tries, but some of these lads have not played any rugby and so we needed to play them, but I am really happy with the way we fronted up against a team a league above. We should take credit and pride from that going into the season.”

He added: “There is still a lot to work on, especially that ‘D’ from scrums as they scored two tries that way. That’s something to really work on. But I thought our exits had improved and I thought Tom Richards was absolutely outstanding at 10. He really pulled the strings and brought organisation.

“It is looking positive. Hopefully, we can just get firing over the next couple of weeks in training and that it can really click on the seventh (of September).”

Taylor did confirm that former Brixham and Tamar Saracens prop James MacFarlane has now signed for them.

“That is a massive signing for us,” said Taylor. “We are really happy to have him.”

Saltash were also happy with the run-out on Saturday. They had played a social mix-and-match fixture with a number of Argaum players the week before to mark the club’s 50th anniversary but the Oaks game was the start of their main pre-season preparations.

“This was our first real test with our new squad,” said player and new forwards coach Wells. “There’s still a lot to work on, but it’s nice to see some of last year’s colts stepping up and filling five or six of the positions in the first team. They are just 18 but are doing nothing but impressing so far.”

Saltash will continue their pre-season preparations by hosting Devonport Services on Friday evening.

“We play Services every single year in pre-season,” said Wells. “We beat them last year, but it wasn’t a very impressive game. We are looking forward to that game, but we are not too worried about winning or losing these pre-season games, it is just about building our new structures that myself and Steve (Down) as coaches are putting in place.”

Just down the road from Horsham Fields, OPMs and Plympton Victoria got their pre-season campaigns underway with a social fixture.

Devon One side OPMs, who had massive amount of players, triumphed 54-3 against their lower league visitors, with speedy winger Martin Skelly marking his return to action with a couple of tries. Billy Garratt, Jack Mitchell and Alex Neville were also among their scorers on a baking hot day.

“It was a social fixture and we had loads of lads who wanted to play, which was good,” said captain Garratt.

“We’ve got Salcombe next week, which will be a slightly harder game, but we are looking forward to it. Hopefully, we will get decent numbers again.”

Despite their defeat, Plym Vic took a lot of out the fixture. Marc Leighton got their only points with a penalty on 12 minutes.

“It was a typical warm-up game – arranged at fairly short notice and so we were a bit strapped for numbers but they were brilliant and lent us some guys,” said Plym Vic team manager Chris Hunt.

“It was just about getting a run-out. That was the first run-out since last season and generally I thought we did pretty well. We played against something like 40 or 50 opposition players – they had loads of players – but looking at it I think when we play their seconds in the league it will be a competitive match.

“The game was certainly worth it. Players got some game-time. You can practice all you want, but there’s nothing like a real game to go out and test yourselves. It was good.

“It was just a fun game of rugby. Everyone enjoyed it. Our coach said he was not too bothered about the score, it was just about trying to put into practice what we have been learning at training.

“The first quarter we started off a bit ropey, but second quarter we got it together and started to play the patterns we want to and our defence tightened up a lot.

“Hopefully, going forward we can keep improving and the feeling is good in the club.”

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