SALTASH enjoyed a morale-boosting 40-10 pre-season victory away at higher league Plymstock Albion Oaks on Saturday.
Oaks were missing a number of key forwards, but Saltash really impressed at Horsham Fields and scored six tries in total – three in each half.
“It was a fairly complete performance, but obviously there’s still things to work on,” said Saltash head coach Steve Down.
He added: “It is not always about the win but what we learn from it – and we did learn quite a lot from that.
“I am really pleased with the last couple of games (against Oaks and Devonport Services). We are seeing things that we do in training coming into reality on the park.
“We are really fronting up and starting stronger. We used to grow into games but we seem to be starting stronger. We will see how we go against Tavvy now (in the final pre-season game).”
Saltash have lost influential fly-half Kieran Down to level five side Devonport Services and fellow fly-half/centre Kristian Davis has joined Ivybridge. The club admit they are a loss, but the team showed on Saturday that they still have plenty of talent in the backline.
“The lads that do go off know where we are and hopefully eventually they will come back,” said head coach Steve Down.
“The new league structure has not done us any favours. We have more travelling and have lost players because of the level. That’s going to be a battle, but we are taking it on.”
In the RFU’s restructure, Plymstock Albion Oaks were promoted from level eight to level seven.
Head coach Dan Parkes is just hoping to get players back and fit for when they kick-off their league season on September 3 against Falmouth.
“We were just happy we got two teams out this weekend, to be honest,” said Parkes. “It didn’t look like we were going to do at one point with so many people away.
“We were very light in the forwards and then we seemed to get one injury after another – not the start we wanted. But I’m not taking anything away from Saltash as they played very well.”
Oaks did win the second team match between the two clubs 32-22.
Full-back Cameron Goss impressed in that game with a hat-trick of tries for Oaks.
Plymstock’s seconds led 17-0 at half-time and then increased their lead to 22-0 before Rees Sargent got a try back for Saltash’s mixed team of youngsters and veterans.
Oaks’ second string then went 32-5 ahead before Saltash finished strongly. Rob Eatwell and Andrew Walsh scored tries before a fight broke out after a head high tackle on veteran Eatwell. The referee ended up showing Oaks a red and a yellow card.
In the closing stages Saltash’s coaches Steve Hall and Steve Down combined for the latter to score.
In the following first team match, Saltash took the lead in the 12th minute with a fine try on the left by full-back Ryan Cruickshanks, who also added the conversion.
Oaks hit back with a try from Duncan Bibby but Saltash scored two tries in eight minutes before half-time courtesy of one in the corner from hooker Rob Walsh and an interception effort from the speedy Will Morton. That gave them a 19-5 lead at the interval.
Saltash started the second half strongly and back-row forwards Harry Wilford and Phil Eatwell added further tries to make it 33-5.
Both teams had chances before Oaks scored in the right corner after good play by Corey Jamieson.
However, the final word went to Saltash with the impressive Cruickshanks adding his second and his side’s sixth in the closing stages.
Elsewhere, Devonport Services enjoyed an encouraging 27-14 win away at Wadebridge.
They were trailing 14-12 at half-time after conceding a couple of interception tries but showed their strength second half.
They managed five tries down in Cornwall courtesy of Aadam Mia, Mark Friend, Dylan Daley, Mike Rickard and Greg Thomas.
“It was a cracking game – a really good battle,” said Services’ head coach Ben Russell. “They scored two intercepts so our ‘D’ was fantastic. It was an improvement from Tuesday.”
Tavistock played higher league Bideford and an Okehampton XV in a three-way pre-season fixture at Sandy Park.
Tavistock lost 24-0 to Bideford, but then beat Okehampton 33-7 thanks to two tries apiece from Conor Packwood and Martin Budden and one from Jake Le Gassick, with George Hillson kicking four conversions.
“In the first game we gave away penalties that allowed Bideford to kick to the corner and they scored three tries from pushovers,” said Tavistock head coach Joel Caddy. “Their pack was considerably bigger than ours.
“Then we played the Okehampton side. It was 33-0 but with the last play of the game one of our lads knocked it on right on the try line and the referee awarded a penalty try to make it 33-7.
“That performance was pretty outstanding. Their coach said afterwards that their lads were squad players pushing for a first team place, so that was a pretty good result for us as they are three leagues above us.
“A lot of lads played who haven’t played for Tavistock before this season. Several were colts last year.
“Antonio Stan played at loose-head in the first match and it was his first game out of colts rugby but he more than handled himself. He also came on in the second game against Okehampton and did the same again.
“Ash Martin probably had the best game I have seen him play for Tavistock. He played nigh on all the minutes of both games as we had a late drop-out in the front-row. He was pretty impressive.
“But the whole lot did what they had to do.
“That Okey game was just like us at the end of last season. We really did score some fantastic tries.”
Also on Saturday, Plymouth Argaum overcame lower league Plympton Victoria 45-7 at Bickleigh Down as both clubs began their pre-season preparations.
Jack Morris scored a hat-trick of tries for Argaum, while captain Dan Smith and Owen Goucher bagged two apiece.
On Friday evening, a strong Ivybridge second team beat Paignton 69-19 at Cross-in-Hand.
Former Saltash back Kristian Davis got his chance to impress, along with fellow new senior faces Cameron Dale, Will Peakman and Charles Bowden.
Young scrum-half Bowden and centre Dale both managed to score tries on the evening, to go with further touch-downs from Wes Vermigle (2), Owen Garner, Sam Wilmington, Ben Collins, Tom Scoles, Olly Bragg and Ben Hooper, with Giles Clarke and Luke Martell kicking the conversions.
* The funeral of Old Techs’ Mike Putt will take place on Friday, August 26 at Weston Mill Cemetery at 2.45pm. It will be followed by a ‘send off’ at the Weston Mill Oak Villa Sports and Community Centre. The family have asked that no black is worn – only bright colours – and for rugby players to wear their club shirts and shorts with flip-flops.
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