With thanks to the South Wales ArgusBy Chris Kirwan
Cross Keys 17 Glamorgan W 19
EVEN as they woke this morning it will have been a mystery to Cross Keys how they managed to lose to Glamorgan Wanderers.
The Keys defence kept their visitors wrapped up for 81 minutes on Saturday afternoon at Pandy Park but paid the price for letting their standards slip in injury time.
Replacement Wanderers wing Steve Cullen scuttled down the wing after opposite number Marcus Johnstone had been drawn in before chipping over full-back Gareth David and keeping his cool to cross the line.
It was a tremendous finish by the wideman but it only levelled the scores at 17-17. Fly-half Scott Sneddon, who left Keys in controversial circumstances just over a year ago, had a mixed afternoon, yet had been imperious from the kicking tee and didn’t waste the chance to put the boot into his old side.
That late lapse and a couple of brainless moments means that the Wanderers have built up a handy lead in the race for the last play-off spot.
It was a game that should have produced at least four league points for the home side while the Wanderers were probably content going into the closing stages that they were set to leave with a bonus point.
Yet two decisions to take quick tap penalties rather than hand the ball to prolific kicker Gareth David, who had a 100 percent record in howling wind on Saturday, will look simply awful when the DVD is reviewed.
Scrum-half Owen Jones knocked on in the process of tapping early in the second half but that was nothing compared to the shocker made with the score at 10-9 as the game entered the final quarter.
Fly-half Dai Langdon first looked set to kick for the corner rather than let David do his stuff, then opted to go for the quick tap which the Wanderers defence, who had been on their line and ready, turned over.
It was enough to make the Keys coaching staff storm from the touchline into the stands, such was their frustration.
Those decisions were criminal and also played their part in ensuring skipper Lloyd Burns was on the losing side, a fate that his all-action display did not deserve.
The hooker was simply immense in attack and defence, adding some deft touches to the powerful cameos that are always part of his game.
Burns was a nuisance around the fringes and gave both of the Wanderers’ scrum-halves a torrid time.
And he was also a prominent figure in the fly-half channel, playing the Joe Worsley role to perfection. The Wasps, England and Lions flanker was moved into midfield at the Millennium Stadium to prevent Jamie Roberts building up a head of steam. Burns was just as effective in stopping influential Cardiff Blues centre Daffyd Hewitt from getting over the gain line.
His side had gone into the break 7-6 up after playing into the gust, and they were good value for the lead despite a spell down to 14 men after Richard Cornock picked up a bonkers yellow card. The prop stupidly dropped a knee into a Wanderers back at a ruck to give referee Leighton Hodges, who thankfully had a more placid afternoon than his previous week’s work at the fiery Newport-Pontypool game, no option but to send him to the sin bin. Sneddon booted a pair of penalties for the visitors yet Keys had the edge thanks to a well-worked try by wing Nathan Trowbridge.
Phil Williams had earned a lineout 30 yards out with a thumping tackle on Hewitt (who had barged over Trowbridge like a Samoan) and the Keys centre showed a deft touch to put his wing through with a perfect inside pass from quick ball.
The hosts should have been out of sight in the second half but failed to take their chances when they came and were trailing when Sneddon cancelled out a David penalty on 62 minutes then added another on 68.
That stirred Keys into action and they crossed for their second try after highly rated Wanderers full-back Dan Fish, who was kept quiet all afternoon, was forced into conceding a lineout five yards out.
A clever move saw Toby Faletau loop around, and while the Wanderers defence managed to stop him, they were powerless to prevent Burns getting a well-deserved try.
David expertly converted and another chance went begging on 74 minutes when Johnstone would have had a clear run in had a grubber kick been chosen instead of a wild pass.
That made the late Cullen try and Sneddon’s conversion even more galling.
There was much to admire about Keys’ performance but they will not get the top-eight spot they desire until they learn to kill off games like this.
They are already suffering from their failure to pick up both kinds of bonus points. They may have picked one up for Saturday’s narrow defeat but it will have felt like a slap in the face.
Cross Keys: G David, M Johnstone, L Andrews, P Williams (R James 62), N Trowbridge, D Langdon, O Jones, J Price, L Burns, R Cornock (C Gould 62), C Bridges, B Watkins (T Lampard 29-38), T Faletau, R Nash (C Gould 19-28), J Groves.
Scorers: Tries – N Trowbridge, L Burns, conversions – G David (2), penalties – G David.
Glamorgan Wanderers: D Fish, R Lock, C Johnson (M Trowbridge 53), D Hewitt, R Healey (S Cullen 43), S Sneddon, R Dyer (L Williams HT), M O’Leary (N Trevett 48), I Davies, S Andrews (captain), A Luff (M Al-Azzawi 76), T Evans, J Navidi, B Rose (L Highgate 76), G Knight.
Scorers: Tries – S Cullen, conversions – S Sneddon, penalties – S Sneddon (4).
Referee: Leighton Hodges (Bridgend).
Argus star man: Lloyd Burns.