Cross Keys defeated Gwent rivals Newport in the big Boxing Day derby at Pandy Park
It was Keys who looked most lively from the start when they looked to wear the Black and Ambers down with a series of attacks toward Newport territory but the early chances came to nothing with the visitors coping with all Keys threw at them early on.
The black and ambers eventually strung a number of phases together but just like Keys had done early on they were unable to break the opposition defence down.
After 16 minutes Keys were awarded a penalty from in front of the sticks following a breakdown offence by the visitors some 40 metres out. Keys outside half Josh Prosser opted to go for goal and was successful to give his side a 3-0 lead.
The Keys had l really dominated the opening 15 minutes particularly up front and this was continuing to prove vital to the areas that Keys were looking to play in as Keys were awarded plenty of penalties to either relieve any pressure or build good position.
That said it was the black and ambers who scored next when outside half Matt O'Brien kicked a penalty to level the scores when Keys were punished for winning the ball illegally at a ruck with 20 minutes played.
This successful penalty saw the visitors confidence grow and an attack from their own half proved crucial as Keys missed one too many tackles before winger Elliott Frewen was worked in to space just inside the Keys half and he did the rest to evade the chasing Keys defenders to finish excellently in the scoreboard corner despite the best defensive efforts of both Owain Leonard and Nathan Trowbridge who had chased back for Keys. The touchline conversion attempt of O'Brien went wide but the black and ambers led the first time with 25 minutes on the clock.
Despite the black and ambers holding the lead it was arguably the home side that continued to hold the upper hand and they opted to go for gold from a penalty with 30 minutes played but the driving lineout close to the Newport try line came to nothing as the Newport defence held out. Keys continued to win penalties thanks to their dominance at the scrum and this time a kickable penalty was indeed kicked to goal by Prosser who closed the gap with around 5 minutes of the first half remaining with his 2nd successful penalty of the afternoon.
The visitors were reduced to 14 men with 2 minutes of the half remaining when second row Rhodri Jones saw yellow for killing the ball at a ruck with Newport again under servere pressure thanks to Keys' dominance at the breakdown. From the resulting penalty Keys went to the corner once more and won yet another penalty from the lineout just 5 metres from the Newport tryline. They opted for a scrum and this decision proved crucial as the scrum barged it's way to the line with Newport being torn apart by the Keys pack and referee Simon Rees was left with no choice but to reward Keys with a penalty try with the final play of the first half. Josh Prosser adding the conversion from in front of the sticks.
Half time score Cross Keys 13 Newport 8
Cross Keys started the second half just as they ended the first as they took control once again early on.
A terrific break down the blind side from a ruck formed on the halfway line, in front of the stand by Keys scrum half Owain Leonard almost led to an early try for Keys but centre Barney Nightingale couldn't quite escape the attention of Newport's defence deep inside the visitors 22 before Keys lost the ball to allow the black and ambers to clear the danger, if only for a brief period.
Keys came back strongly and their scrum again caused no end of issues for the Newport pack when a scrum in Newport's favour was forced backward once more and the visitors were pinned back in their own in goal area before Keys forced the turnover thanks to Newport not being able to escape their in goal area.
The writing appeared to be on the wall for the visitors when Keys produced another unstoppable scrum and with number 8 Ieuan Jones in complete control of the ball at the base of a rampaging scrum the scrum was once again halted illegally and referee Simon Rees again marched under the posts to award Keys a second penalty try in almost identical circumstances to the one Keys were awarded in the first half. Josh Prosser added the straight forward conversion with Keys looking home and dry with 50 minutes on the clock.
With 20 minutes remaining both sides were reduced to 14 men when Keys had prop Luke Garrett red carded for an apparent punch on his former Keys team mate Reuben Tucker who saw yellow for his part in the same punch up.
The game became pretty scrappy for the closing quarter with Keys continuing to use their scrum to good effect but being unable to breakdown the visitors defence whilst the black and ambers got no favours from Keys' well organised and disciplined defence.
With 10 minutes remaining the Keys victory was all but secured when Josh Prosser kicked his 3rd penalty to put Keys the equivalent of 3 tries clear of the vistors.
Sure enough the game petered out and Keys celebrated a job well done which keeps alive Keys hopes of a top 8 finish. Overall a comfortable victory for Keys as a result of a dominant set piece with Leon Brown, on his return to Keys colours following his experience in the Wales camp during the Autumn international series and his first experience of regional rugby with the Dragons in recent weeks simply magnificent across the park alongside his front row colleagues of skipper Darren Hughes, Luke Garrett and Lewis Smout.
Cross Keys Scorers:-
Tries: Penalty Try (x2)
Conversions: Josh Prosser (x2)
Penalties: Josh Prosser (x3)
Try: Elliott Frewen
Penalty: Matt O'Brien
Keys Man of the Match: Leon Brown