Cross Keys got back to winning way with a solid victory over Neath at Pandy Park last Saturday, which left the Welsh All Blacks still looking for their first victory of the season.
Attacking the club house end in the first half, Keys flew out of the blocks, a polar opposite to their last outing at Carmarthen last weekend. A superb break from Keys’ outside half, Jason Tovey from around the halfway line left the Neath defence chasing shadows as he entered the visitors’ 22. Tovey found support on his inside shoulder from Srdan Majkic and Majkic did the rest to cross for the game’s opening try just 3 minutes in to his home debut. Tovey added the extras from the left of the posts.
The Keys extended their lead on 15 minutes when Tovey kicked a penalty from around 30 metres in front of the posts after Neath found themselves off side with Keys looking to attack. Neath then enjoyed a good spell and closed the gap when outside half Callum Hall kicked a penalty after Keys offended at a ruck with 20 minutes played.
Keys came back well after being under pressure and Tovey furthered the Keys lead when he slotted over his second penalty of the day with 23 minutes gone. The Welsh All Blacks once again came back at Keys and a series of drives at the Keys line eventually led to space being created out wide which outside half Callum Hall found himself worked in to and crossed in the corner for a try which he failed to convert.
The visitors were reduced to 14 men after around 30 minutes when former Keys hooker Darren Hughes was sent to the sin bin with referee Gareth John losing patience after an altercation around the half way line. Keys then opted to kick to the corner but despite a number of chances from a series of close range lineouts and good field position Keys couldn’t make the one man advantage count.
As it was, it was the visitors who scored next when, after they set up camp on the Keys try line another former Keys player, 1 of 5 in the Neath starting line-up Aaron Bramwell managed to break through some weak tackle attempts from the base of a ruck and cross for his side’s 2nd try of the game. Callum Hall added the conversion which gave the visitors the lead for the first time with 5 minutes of the half remaining.
Half Time Score Cross Keys 13 Neath 15
The Keys started the second half superbly and went back in front just over 2 minutes in to the half when following a penalty won a scrum time Jason Tovey kicked his 3rd penalty of the day from in front of the posts.
Immediately from the restart Keys looked to launch an attack from inside their own 22. The ball was moved swiftly through the hands and Richard Cornock initially made a barnstorming run before off loading to his fellow prop Gary Carpenter who carried the ball well over 20 meters from his own half, over the half way line before showing excellent handling to off load to supporting flanker Joe Thomas. Thomas took play in to the Neath 22 before a superb ‘out of the back door’ off load inside to supporting scrum half Owain Leonard led to Keys crossing for an outstanding try under the posts. Jason Tovey continued his faultless performance by kicking the conversion. Tovey added a 4th penalty on 50 minutes to give Keys some breathing space.
Keys grabbed their 3rd try of the day to all but seal the victory with around 25 minutes to play when they worked the ball in to space thanks once again to another break from deep by Tovey. Tovey found winger Wes Cunliffe on his shoulder and Cunliffe raced through from around 40 meters out to cross under the posts.
The visitors looked like they had other ideas when they hit back almost immediately as they found space all too easily out wide once more and winger Ian Ellis crossed in the corner with relative ease to give his side a glimmer of hope with just over 20 minutes left on the clock. The conversion was missed.
Any nerves that might have been starting to build in the Keys ranks were calmed when with just over 10 minutes remaining Jason Tovey added his 5th penalty of the day. Neath still weren’t done and their powerful pack paved the way for them to camp in the Keys 22 as the game entered the closing stages. The Welsh All Blacks were awarded a string of penalties which they opted to scrum on each occasion, Keys couldn’t keep them at bay and the visitors bonus point try came thanks to a converted penalty try with less than 5 minutes remaining.
The Keys were reduced to 14 men when replacement prop Corey Hewlett was sent to the sin bin with 2 minutes remaining as a result of yet another penalty at scrum time. The Welsh All Blacks closed an enthralling fixture with a straight forward penalty kick by replacement Iwan Evans meaning they took 2 bonus points but Keys held on for another solid home victory.
Cross Keys Scorers:-
Tries: Srdan Majkic, Owain Leonard & Wes Cunliffe
Conversions: Jason Tovey (x3)
Penalties: Jason Tovey (x5)
Tries: Callum Hall, Aaron Bramwell, Ian Ellis & Penalty Try
Conversions: Callum Hall & Penalty Try Conversion
Penalties: Callum Hall & Iwan Evans
Keys Man of the Match: Joe Thomas