The Ashes had a season most clubs could only dream of last term. They only lost one league game all year and won four cups across their two senior sides.
But with only one team promoted from Counties Two Cornwall, they narrowly missed out, with St Ives just pipping them to the title. Both clubs only lost one league game.
Saltash’s frustration were compounded when the RFU decided not to relegate any teams from the league above when extra places became available in Western West, including Falmouth who lost all their matches in 2022-23.
“Going up was the target (last season), but we just didn’t quite get over the line,” said head coach Steve Down.
“It was frustrating but we have to use it to fuel the fire. It is a really tough league to get out of as you almost have to have the perfect season – as you saw last year.
“The challenge this year is to maintain that or move on.
“There are going to be some challenges again this year – nothing is a given.
“We do come with a bit of a target on us now but we will learn that and get on with it. You do have to be on your mettle every week.”
He added: “We had a couple of let downs with pre-season games, which hasn’t helped our preparation.
“But our training has gone pretty well. We’ve had good numbers at training. We have been working on new systems and new things so that we stay fresh and can keep building. We are looking to keep pushing on.”
The Ashes have welcomed five of last season’s colts into their senior squad and have had ‘a few old heads’ return and added a couple of new faces.
They should have started their Counties Two Cornwall season with a home game against newly-promoted St Just, who gave them a good game in the Cornwall cup last term.
But St Just are unable to raise a side and so have handed Saltash a home walkover. The Ashes were handed five walkovers last season and so they will be hoping this is just a one-off and that they will get more games played this term.
Saltash’s second team have entered the league this year and will play in Counties Three Cornwall.
“It will be a challenge keeping two teams going, but it is a challenge we are going to relish,” said Down.
“The challenge will be to stay up as they have already announced that the leagues below our first team are going down to 10 teams per league so they will be relegating four teams from Counties Three to make a Counties Four, so that’s going to be quite a challenge. We have to make sure we maintain the fixtures and get a side out.”
Their seconds will open their season away at Wadebridge II.
“We have always had a fairly good battle with them,” said Down. “Our second teams have had some really good games.