An entertaining Fosters Challenge Cup fixture saw Cross Keys defeat Newport on a drizzly night at Pandy Park on Wednesday.
The opening 15 minutes seemed to be dominated by the set-piece with neither side carving out any real opportunity, although Keys, playing away from the club house probably had their best attack of the opening quarter from the Kick Off but lost stand-in skipper Nathan Williams after just 2 minutes of play with what looked to be a serious shoulder injury.
It was the black and ambers who opened the scoring when outside half Matt O’Brien slotted over a penalty with around 19 minutes on the clock. Their lead was doubled 5 minutes later when O’Brien slotted a second penalty of the evening, with the game now starting to open up somewhat.
With 30 minutes played both sides were reduced to 14 men when Keys prop, Gary Carpenter and Newport prop, Matt Prosser were sent to the sin bin when it seemed as if a slip at a scrum deep in the Newport 22 saw the referee lose patience with the number of scrum resets and issue a yellow card to both props as a result.
Keys appeared to now be in control and after some neat handling in the black and ambers 22 they eventually created the overlap out wide for replacement Mathew Powell to open up a gap and cross for Keys’ first points of the evening after 32 minutes. The conversion attempt from full back Jacob Lloyd was wide. The visitors responded almost immediately from the restart and scrum half Aaron Bidgood broke free to score after some poor tackling from Keys allowed him to slip through for a try converted by O’Brien with 5 minutes of the half remaining.
Keys then came back well and after a lineout close to the Newport try line they set up good field position and once again created an overlap which Danny Hodge exploited to barge his way over in the corner with a minute of the first half remaining. Scrum half Ross Pritchard took over the kicking duties and added the difficult extras from out wide to close the gap to one point. There was still time for Keys to take the lead for the first time when an excellent break by impressive centre Lewis Barnett, saw him move play in to the visitors 22 before neat handling once again saw Keys go out wide and Nathan Trowbridge showed good pace and power to cross for Keys’ 3rd try of the evening, which was again converted by Pritchard.
Half time Score: Cross Keys 19 Newport 13
The Keys secured a bonus point, and took a commanding lead inside the opening 5 minutes of the second half when a number of close range drives led to Max George, son of former Newport and Wales star Glenn crash over for his first try in Keys’ colours. Ross Pritchard again added the conversion.
With just over an hour played Keys looked to attack from deep as they were now confident of putting width in to their attack. They were caught out however as Keys headed toward the halfway line a stray pass was read perfectly by black and ambers centre Haydn Palmer who intercepted and had the relatively straight forward task of racing away unopposed to cross under the posts. Matt O’Brien adding the easiest of conversions to close the gap.
The Keys victory was all but secured with 8 minutes remaining when Nathan Trowbridge read an attempted Newport clearance to perfection to retreat to the halfway line before again showing excellent power to burst through to the Newport 22 before being backed up by replacement Darren Hughes, who came on in the back row and Hughes did the rest to cross in front of the scoreboard for Keys 5th try. Replacement outside half Josh Prosser added the extras.
With the final play of what had been an entertaining fixture the black and ambers secured a losing bonus point with their 3rd try which came when they opened up Keys’ defence allowing replacement Haydn Symons to cross under the posts for a try which he also converted.
Cross Keys Scorers:-
Tries: Mathew Powell, Danny Hodge, Nathan Trowbridge, Max George & Darren Hughes
Conversions: Ross Pritchard (x3) & Josh Prosser
Tries: Aaron Bidgood, Haydn Palmer & Haydn Symons
Conversions: Matt O’Brien (x2) & Haydn Symons
Penalties: Matt O’Brien (x2)