Saltash 18 Wath Upon Dearne 22
By Nigel Walrond at Twickenham
SALTASH were denied an RFU Senior Vase and promotion double in the blistering heat at Twickenham.
They gave it their all, but they were outdone by a much bigger pack of forwards, and as much as the Ashes tried to move them around in the strength-sapping heat, it was not to be.
Five missed kicks at goal – three conversions and two penalties – also proved very costly.
Saltash did not get off to the best of starts, with Wath fly-half Jack Whitlam slotting a very early penalty.
However, it took prolific try scorer Will Morton only seven minutes to register his 32nd touchdown of the season for the Ashes, forcing his way over the line after slick hands by Todd Crofts and Jason Carroll.
Harrison Reburn missed the touchline conversion, and was also off target with a 35-metre penalty opportunity in front of the posts, before he found the target with another penalty chance after 22 minutes.
Saltash were dominating proceedings, and fly-half Crofts almost made his way to the try line with a weaving run.
They then had to produce some excellent defending to stop a powerful driving maul inside their own 22.
Wath were reduced to 14 men in the 33rd minute when scrum-half Joe Bartlett was sin-binned.
They made light of their disadvantage three minutes later by scoring their first try.
Saltash full-back Ryan Cruickshanks failed to deal with a kick downfield, Wath pounced and span the ball wide for outside centre Stephen Mason to score in the corner to level it at 8-8.
They almost dotted down again moments later following a great break downfield, but Morton got across well to force winger Sam Holt into touch ten metres out.
It was a shortlived reprieve, though, with replacement forward Richard Hill crashing over beside the posts, and Whitlam adding the extras for a 15-8 half-time lead for the Yorkshiremen.
Saltash made a sparkling start to the second half, and could have scored in the corner, but the final pass from Cruickshanks to James Moriarty did not stick.
The flying Morton finally got the ball in space down the other touchline, but this time it was his turn to be stopped metres short of the whitewash.
Saltash were starting to tire Wath out in the warm temperatures, and gaps were appearing in the Yorkshiremen’s defence.
Scrum-half Olly Mulberry spotted one close to the line and short through it, but looked to pass to a team-mate when it seemed easier to score. However, Cornwall flanker Lewis Wells was on hand to mop up the loose ball and finish things off.
Reburn again missed the conversion, so Saltash still trailed by two points with half an hour remaining.
The Ashes were struggling at scrum time, and when they collapsed one such set piece being driven towards their line, referee Thomas Davis marched under the sticks to award a penalty try, and Wath suddenly had some breathing space at 22-13.
Saltash had the chance to cut the deficit almost straight from the restart, but it was not a good strike from replacement Kieran Down, and the effort from 30 metres went wide.
Wath were dominating up front by now, and Saltash were forced to pull down a driving maul heading for their line. They opted for a scrum with the penalty, but then messed up and Saltash were able to clear their lines.
The Ashes piled on the pressure in the closing stages, looking for a way back into the game, and Wath lock Luke Stead was yellow carded for a deliberate knock-on.
Saltash opted for a quick tap and thought they had scored, but the referee instead gave a penalty for a double movement, and Ashes’ hopes of lifting the trophy pretty much disappeared with that decision.
There were still 90 seconds left when Cruickshanks got over in the corner after Morton had been stopped just short, but they were denied any further scores by the clock.
Saltash: R Cruickshanks, W Morton, H Reburn, J Carroll, J Moriarty, T Crofts, O Mulberry, A Coutts, R Rayner (capt), T Olds, K Felton, J Ronayne, L Wells, P Eatwell, S Hillman. Replacements: G Eatwell, K Down, B Jennison, L Honey, S Nance, C Carpenter, A Merritt.
Wath: T Quinn, A Barratt, S Mason, A Hopkin, S Holt, J Whitlam, J Bartlett, J McCarthy, R Lazenby, A Hamilton, C Brownrigg, L Stead, J Earp, A Rothery, A West (capt). Replacements: R Hill, B Myers, J West, A Bartlett, R Anderson, A Kenney, L Pendlebury.
Referee: Thomas Davis (RFU).
Saltash: Tries: Morton, Wells, Cruickshanks; Pen: Reburn.
Wath: Tries: Mason, Hill, penalty try; Con: Whitlam; Pen: Whitlam.
Yellow cards – Wath: J Bartlett 33, Stead 75.