Of the Ashes’ six league wins this season, five have come at home and in four of them they have scored 40 points of more.
When they click, they really do and their form in the second half of this campaign will give them confidence for next season, especially with a third of their team currently still under-20 players.
After a disappointing start to the season, they have been very competitive and consistent since the turn of the year. Their biggest loss in 2022 is only by 15 points and they have played the likes of Topsham, Cullompton, Bude and Plymstock Albion Oaks.
Head coach Steve Down was thrilled with Saturday’s victory and with how his team has developed over the course of the campaign.
“We managed to nullify their (Veor’s) purple periods and put quite a few good scores away,” said Down. “We did score some well-worked, well-taken tries, so we’re very happy.
“We are threatening once we get the ball wide, but our biggest improvement over the last few weeks has been our defence. Against these bigger teams we are really muscling up now and also being more organised.
“Our scrum has also really come on and that is giving us a platform now.”
He added: “The faces haven’t really changed that much over the season, but I think it is the belief that has changed – and just playing together.
“We’ve also had some really good socials which has helped bring everyone together. We are playing as a 15 now, which is great.”
Saltash have used this season to blood a load of youngsters and the likes of Lewis Woolaway, Fin Jones, Andrew Walsh and Kristian Davis have really established themselves in the team.
“What is nice is that the older heads are really trusting the younger heads now,” said Down, who feels that is part of the reason why they are a lot more consistent now than they were at the start of the season.
On Saturday, they did have to defend for long periods in the first half against a far bigger Veor team.
The seventh-placed visitors, playing uphill first half, really came flying out of the blocks and could have easily have scored in the opening few minutes. Saltash did brilliantly to hold them up over the line to deny what looked like a certain try.
But after soaking up Veor’s early pressure, Saltash scored against the run of play on 10 minutes when winger Greg Eatwell ran in for a fine try down the right, which Kieran Down converted.
And it got better for the hosts nine minutes later when experienced full-back Ryan Cruickshanks scored down the other wing after another great counterattack to make it 14-0.
Veor continued to have good spells of possession, but whenever they lost the ball Saltash always threatened to run the length of the field.
Midway through the first half, the visitors camped on Saltash’s line and the hosts had Lewis Wells yellow carded after the team had giving away far too many penalties for the referee’s likening.
But Saltash again kept Veor out with 14 men and then scored a stunning try involving most of the backline and finished by captain Phil Eatwell. Davis started the move before Walsh showed good hands to get the ball wide quickly and Greg Eatwell did really well to break down the right and then off-load to his brother to score and make it 19-0.
However, Veor did finish the half strongly and scored two tries in the final 10 minutes from close range courtesy of powerful forwards Ollie Reynolds and Chris Instance.
Veor must have fancied their chances at half-time, trailing only 19-12 and knowing they had the slope in the second period.
But Saltash did not allow them to get into their game second half and the hosts scored four tries in the opening 20 minutes to put the game beyond doubt.
Young back-rower Fin Jones scored a great try from his own half just five minutes into the second period before Kieran Down added one 10 minutes later following a tap penalty.
Saltash were looking so dangerous at this point and Cruickshanks added his second of the afternoon on 57 minutes after good play by the impressive Davis, which was quickly followed by one from hooker Dale Thompson, who benefitted from some great play by Wells.
Prop Ashley Lawton pulled a try back for Veor in the 69th minute before the Ashes went down to 14 men again for the closing stages but the hosts refused to allow their visitors to get a fourth try for a bonus point.
Ivybridge II are looking like favourites to win the Devon Merit Table Division One after they beat title-rivals Barnstaple 12-10 away on Saturday.
Although Barnstaple stay top, unbeaten Ivybridge are just three points behind with three games in hand.
The Bridgers did go behind after just five minutes but they hit back and led 12-10 at the break with a try by fit-again Jay Toogood after a number of good phases, which Luke Martell converted, and then a touch-down from Theo Clark.
The second half was a real battle and Ivybridge had to play for a spell with 13 players after picking up two yellow cards but they dug deep to claim the win.
In Devon Merit Table Division Two South & West, bottom side Plympton Victoria pulled off a great 24-12 win over fourth-placed University of Plymouth.
Plym Vic lost points and wins when a number of teams were ejected from the league before Christmas so Saturday’s victory was their first over a team still left in the division.
The first half was tight and the teams went in at half-time level at 12-12, but Plym Vic’s larger pack gave them good go-forward in the second period.
Dan Warne scored two of Plym Vic’s four tries, with Chris Barrett and Ethan Pringle also crossing and Jordan Blair adding two conversions. Paul Lawrence was voted Plym Vic’s man of the match.
The students did not have front-row cover so the match went to uncontested scrums, which robbed Plym Vic of a good offensive weapon, but they made up for it with some good loose forward play.
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