Yet another thriller involving two of the top sides in the league, although unlike in the victory over Pontypridd last Saturday Keys could not be separated from Aberavon after 80 minutes of play at Pandy Park.
Keys could not have wished for a better start as almost straight from the Kick Off they set up camp in the Wizards 22 and after, firstly a close range lineout followed by a series of scrums that gradually, in Keys favour moved in field they crossed the whitewash with just 3 minutes played as James Leadbeater squeezed through after a scrum near the posts. Ethan Davies added the relatively simple conversion to give Keys a perfect start.
Aberavon responded well as they started to build good field position with some clever tactical kicking for territory playing a key role. Keys remained firm in defence and the Wizards saw some early chances of their own go begging. The visitors were reduced to 14 men after quarter of an hour when lock Ben Davies was sent to the sin bin after a stamp on the ankle of Keys’ Danny Hodge at a ruck close to the Keys line.
Despite being a man down it was the Wizards who scored next when the visitors pack powered over the line for Rob Dudley-Jones to emerge with the ball for the try. James Garland added the extras for his side to level the scores after 24 minutes of play. With both sides back to their full complement shortly after the Wizards try, a fairly even passage of play occurred.
It was Keys who then set about breaking through once more as the game went past 30 minutes of play but a string of driving lineouts came to nothing and eventually the Wizards cleared their lines to great effect when they went almost the length of the pitch in a move that saw full back Jonathan Phillips benefit from some excellent attacking from his side to score an opportunist try against the run of play. Garland again converted as the Wizards took the lead with just under 10 minutes of the half remaining.
Keys again attacked well only for the Wizards to win a turnover in their own 22 as they looked to attack from deep once more. The planned attack didn’t work and Keys winger Nathan Trowbridge read a loose pass superbly well and intercepted the ball to race away to score his first try of the season. Ethan Davies was successful with the conversion to again level the scores with 5 minutes of the half remaining.
Despite the sticky conditions under foot the action remained end to end and with the final play of the half it was the Wizards turn to attack once again and they crossed for their third try when prop Rowan Jenkins crashed over in front of the scoreboard to give his side the lead at half time. The conversion attempt by Garland fell short but a fairly equal half of rugby saw Aberavon go in to the interval in front.
Half Time Score Cross Keys 16 Aberavon 22
It got even better for the visitors almost straight from the restart when they went on the front foot almost immediately and it was no surprise when their good field position saw their bonus point try be secured just 3 minutes in to the second half when centre Joe Thomas crossed the whitewash. James Garland was on target with the conversion and the Wizards now had a commanding lead.
Keys fought back well and patiently went through the phases although it took time for them to create any meaningful territory. A series of substitutions worked well for Keys as with just over an hour played they crossed for their third try thanks largely to good work from replacements Adam Powell and Darren Hughes they charged forward which led to Danny Hodge barging over the line taking a number of would be Wizards tacklers with him over the line. Ethan Davies again converted as Keys closed the gap to within a try of the visitors once again.
With 10 minutes remaining a superb break up the middle of the park by Adam Powell saw the vice-captain feed the ball to captain Leon Andrews, who was always available to support Powell on his break up field and the skipper received the ball and raced home from the 22 to score Keys bonus point try under the posts. Davies’ conversion from in front of the posts meant Keys now led again with around 9 minutes to play.
The Wizards weren’t done and with the game entering added time a good period of play by the visitors saw a penalty awarded in front of the posts for a chance to level the scores. The penalty kick at goal by Garland was successful and the scores were level. There was still time for one last attack by the visitors which resulted in a drop goal attempt from far out to win the game but the attempt never threatened the uprights and Keys set about themselves trying to win the game at the death with an attack from deep but this also came to nothing and both will be very content with a draw, with both sides securing 3 points as a result of the draw and both scoring 4 tries apiece.
Cross Keys Scorers:-
Tries: James Leadbeater, Nathan Trowbridge, Danny Hodge & Leon Andrews
Conversions: Ethan Davies (x4)
Tries: Rob Dudley-Jones, Jonathan Phillips, Rowan Jenkins & Joe Thomas
Conversions: James Garland (x3)
Penalty: James Garland
Keys Man of the Match: Nathan Trowbridge