Cross Keys face another Gwent derby this Saturday when Ebbw Vale come to Pandy Park with Keys still looking for their first victory of the 2017/2018 season.
Ebbw, like Keys can probably consider themselves to be in a season of transition as the Steelmen, who were champions back in 2015/16 get used to life without a number of players who have played such a key role in years gone by, former skipper Damien Hudd and outside half Josh Lewis to name just 2. They are also adapting to life under a new coaching team, which is now headed up by their former forwards coach Lee Davies following the departure of former Wales and Scarlets chief Nigel Davies at the end of the last campaign. They do still possess plenty of talent in their ranks however so Keys will certainly need to be on top form to take the honours.
Last season the 2 sides met just once which was on the last weekend of the pre-split Principality Premiership at Eugene Cross Park back in January. Keys were already condemned to a bottom 8 finish, whilst Ebbw had to win to secure their place in the top 8 to compete in Tier 1 in the second half of the season. They secured that win when they triumphed over Keys in front of the S4C cameras with a dogged 11 points to 0 victory. All of the Steelmen’s points came from outside half Josh Lewis, who left Eugene Cross Park to join English giants Bath over the summer. Lewis crossed for the only try of the game, late in the second half and also kicked a pair of penalties, one in each half to secure the points for his side.
Turning attentions back to Saturday’s game and both sides will be keen to get the win after home defeats last weekend, whilst Keys were soundly beaten by 34 points to 23 by Bargoed at Pandy Park, Ebbw were no real match for Pontypridd who triumphed by 17 points to 6 at Eugene Cross Park.
The Cross Keys side for Saturday’s game has been announced and Keys field a much more experienced back line than that has taken the field in the previous 2 games, full back Leon Andrews, centre Phil Williams and winger Nathan Trowbridge all make they’re first appearances of the season whilst James Leadbeater starts at scrum half for the first time this season, with Owain Leonard on the bench for the Dragons in Edinburgh. Up front there are 2 changes to the pack that started against Bargoed last weekend. With both Darren Hughes and Rob Jones out injured, Dragons hooker Gerard Ellis starts in the middle of the front row after he appeared off the bench last weekend. The other change in the pack sees Nathan Buck, who made his 50th appearance for Keys as a replacement last week starts with Richard Cornock moving to the bench. Dragons academy prospect Will Griffiths covers hooker from the bench.
The Cross Keys side in full for Saturday’s game is:-
15. Leon Andrews
14. Mathew Powell
13. Lewis Barnett
12. Phil Williams
11. Nathan Trowbridge
10. Josh Prosser
9. James Leabeater
1. Corey Hewlett
2. Gerard Ellis
3. Nathan Buck
4. Tom Lampard
5. Josh Skinner
6. Liam Davies
7. Joe Thomas
8. Adam Powell (c)
Replacements: 16. Will Griffiths, 17. Lewis Smout, 18. Richard Cornock, 19. Max George, 20. Barney Nightingale, 21. David Richards, 22. Ross Pritchard, 23. Joe Goodchild.
Cross Keys v Ebbw Vale Principality Premiership East
Date: Saturday 9th September 2017
Venue: Pandy Park
Kick Off: 2.30pm