Cardiff edged out Cross Keys after a thrilling Principality Premiership clash at Cardiff Arms Park on Saturday afternoon.
It was probably the home side that started the game brightly and showed their early intentions, and set the theme for their game plan when they looked to use a driving lineout as their main attacking weapon early on. Keys coped with what the blue and blacks had to throw at them and cleared their lines to relieve the pressure with the game remaining scoreless leading up to the 5 minute mark.
After soaking up the early pressure, The Keys then secured possession from their own throw around their own 22. The ball was tapped back from the top of the lineout and winger Joe Goodchild picked up the ball and saw a huge gap open up in front of him. Goodchild carried the ball over the halfway line before he was hauled down on the Cardiff 10 metre line. He offloaded to supporting scrum half Dan Babos and he raced clear of the chasing Blue and Blacks’ defence to cross under the posts for an excellent try with a little over 5 minutes on the clock. Jason Tovey added the extras from in front of the posts.
The lead didn’t last long and Keys were frustrated as, for what would certainly not be the last time in the match, referee Ben Breakspear awarded the home side a penalty more or less as soon as they went toward the Keys’ 22. The blue and blacks opted to kick to the corner and after securing possession from their own throw they set up a driving maul and hooker and captain Joey Tomlinson found himself in control of the ball and went over the whitewash for the first of his tries with around 8 minutes played. Former Keys outside half Steffan Jones added the extras with the conversion from the left of the posts to level the scores.
Almost immediately from the restart Keys won a penalty and opted to themselves kick to the corner. The decision proved to be correct as after securing possession around the 22, Keys launched a rolling maul of their own and with winger Wes Cunliffe adding his support at the base the maul rolled forward and Cunliffe pounced to cross for Keys second try of the game with 12 minutes played. Tovey adding the extras from the left of the posts.
Keys suffered a blow at the restart as winger Joe Goodchild was forced off after a clash of heads. It was Goodchild’s replacement Ian Newbury who was next to cross for Keys with a quick tap penalty on his own 22 from Dan Babos catching the blue and blacks’ off guard. He off loaded to Leon Andrews as he entered the Cardiff half and Andrews had Newbury on hand outside him who raced away breaking through the first attempted tackle. Newbury was almost caught with an ankle tap with the line just in front of him but he managed to reach out and score in the corner for another excellent Keys try. Tovey couldn’t add the extras from the touchline.
With half an hour gone and another foray from Cardiff toward the Keys’ 22 resulted in yet another penalty being awarded in the home side’s favour by the referee and this time to the bemusement of most the penalty came with a yellow card being shown to Keys’ replacement Ian Newbury for an apparent deliberate knock on with Cardiff looking to put width on their game. The one man advantage paid dividends for the home side as from the resulting penalty another kick to the corner resulted in another catch and drive and Joey Tomlinson was again on hand to cross for the try. Steffan Jones again adding the conversion.
The blue and blacks’ penalty around the Keys’ 22 followed by driving lineout and Tomlinson combination worked once again just 5 minutes from the break when the Cardiff skipper completed his hat-trick with Jones converting once more to send the home side in to the lead for the first time.
Despite being a man down and being on the receiving end of some questionable decisions from the officials to say the least, Keys heads didn’t drop and were certainly looking to entertain with some fast flowing rugby, with livewire scrum half Babos a key component of this style. Despite being a man down Keys found an overlap out wide after Dylan Fidler had initially gone close to crossing. The ball was worked through the hands quickly and made its way to centre Srdan Majkic who showed good speed to cross in the corner for Keys’ bonus point try. Jason Tovey bought a frantic first half to an end with the conversion attempt but it sailed just wide from the left hand touch line but Keys held a deserved lead at the break.
Half time Score Cardiff 21 Cross Keys 24
The Blue and Blacks reclaimed the lead less than a minute in to the second half when the ball was worked through the hands to find Mathew Powell who crossed for the home side’s bonus point try against his old side. The conversion was missed.
With 5 minutes of the second half played Keys, attacking the Taff end were awarded a penalty which Jason Tovey was successful with from the 22 to give Keys the lead once more, although only by a single point. That lead lasted just a few minutes as Steffan Jones edged the blue and blacks back in front with a penalty of his own with around half an hour remaining.
The Keys then missed a pair of penalties which would have seen them reclaim the lead. Cardiff went back to their dangerous weapon by kicking to the corner following another penalty for another catch and drive which was finished off by replacement Rory Pitman with around 10 minutes to go. His fellow replacement Gareth Thompson took over the kicking duties and was successful with the tricky conversion.
With Keys, now further than one converted score behind set about trying to rescue something from the game by throwing the ball around and attacking from all areas. That intent resulted in Keys being awarded a penalty which Tovey duly slotted over to close the gap to 6 points with around 2 minutes of normal time remaining.
The home side were reduced to 14 men with game in added time as Sam Pailor was sent to the sin bin following a dangerous tackle on Tovey as Keys looked to once again put width on the ball around the Cardiff 22.
Keys went to the corner with the resulting penalty before the home side offended at the lineout which allowed Keys to again kick to the corner and try again. The ball was moved from one side to the end with several of Keys players going close in the build-up and understandably looking to cross as close to the posts as possible. The gap in the well organised Cardiff defence eventually appeared and allowed Tovey to deliver the scoring pass to replacement Todd James who crossed in the corner to give Keys a shot at victory with the conversion to come. Tovey lined up the conversion on the left hand touchline but it drifted agonisingly close but was just the wrong side of the left hand post which meant the blue and blacks clung on to record the narrowest of victories.
Overall a fantastic, valiant effort from Keys young squad who showed plenty of heart and character and can possibly feel hard done by to have not got the victory giving the style of rugby on display. Two bonus points in defeat at the Arms Park is certainly not something to be too disappointed with as Keys prepare for another tough trip on the road next week with unbeaten Ebbw Vale up next in front of the S4C cameras next Saturday evening.
Tries: Joey Tomlinson (x3), Mathew Powell & Rory Pitman
Conversions: Steffan Jones (x3) & Gareth Thompson
Penatly: Steffan Jones
Cross Keys Scorers:-
Tries: Dan Babos, Wes Cunliffe, Ian Newbury, Srdan Majkic & Todd James
Conversions: Jason Tovey (x2)
Penalties: Jason Tovey (x2)