Cross Keys booked their place in the Tier 2 play offs after an excellent victory over Newport at Rodney Parade in the final match of the regular league campaign.
It took less than a minute for Keys to go ahead when Newport’s attempted clearance from the Keys’ Kick Off was only cleared as far as Ieuan Jones, who gathered the ball in his own half before feeding the ball to full back Leon Andrews as he approached the half way line. Andrews glided and danced through a number of attempted tackles and then saw a massive gap open up in front of him to ghost right the way through a host of bodies and cross the whitewash unopposed to give Keys the perfect start. Josh Prosser’s failed to add the conversion from out wide.
The Keys defence found itself under a great deal of pressure as the half went on, but unlike in the heavy defeats to Cardiff and Neath in their previous 2 games Keys were not going to let the opposition through lightly and cleared their lines several times.
The Black and Ambers eventually got the better of Keys’ defence when they created an overlap out wide after a sustained period of pressure on the Keys line. The ball was worked through the hands and second row James Little squeezed in the corner to cross for the home side’s first points of the evening with a little over 10 minutes on the clock. Matt O’Brien added the touchline conversion to put the black and ambers ahead.
Around 10 minutes later O’Brien furthered his sides lead when he kicked a straight forward penalty after Keys were penalised at the breakdown midway in to their own half.
Keys responded brilliantly and launched their own attack deep in to Newport territory, thanks largely to a superb break from the tackle area by scrum half Ross Pritchard. The ball was recycled quickly and Keys skipper Scott Matthews went close with a big drive forward but he couldn’t quite make it to the line. The balls was again worked away quickly and make shift flanker Darren Hughes found himself with the ball and with his head down, powered over the try line for Keys second score of the night, with around 25 minutes on the clock. Josh Prosser added the conversion to bring Keys back in front for a lead that they would not lose for the remainder of the game.
The home side attempted to get back in to things for the next 10 minutes but as they tried to put width on their game a stray pass was read wonderfully by Keys’ winger Nathan Trowbridge and he plucked the ball out of the air and from around the halfway line he raced through to cross for an opportunist, interception try with 5 minutes of the first half remaining. Prosser’s conversion pulled Keys more than a converted try clear.
Half Time Score Newport 10 Cross Keys 19
It was probably the home side that looked more threatening in the early stages of the second half but Keys defence was again on song to relieve any danger.
Keys were reduced to 14 men with around 10 minutes of the half played when Phil Williams was sent to the sin bin for an apparent deliberate knock on, as Newport looked to launch an attack from the half way line.
Despite being a man down it was Keys who scored next to push themselves further ahead when Josh Prosser kicked a penalty from some 45 metres out with around 53 minutes on the clock.
It got even better for Keys around 5 minutes later when they went close to crossing with a number of close range drives forward deep inside the Newport 22. The Keys patiently recycled the ball on each occasion before spreading the ball out wide before eventually crossing in the corner when Ieuan Jones managed to create a small amount of space and power over to secure the bonus point for Keys. Prosser added the awkward conversion as Keys all but secured the victory with an hour played.
The home side threatened a comeback in the closing 10 minutes when James Little added his second try of the game in the far corner after Keys switched off in defence. Matt O’Brien’s conversion failed with around 9 minutes remaining.
The Black and Ambers grabbed their 3rd try when replacement Daniel Mock opened up a huge gap in the Keys defence to cross under the posts with around a minute remaining. O’Brien’s straight forward conversion gave the home side hope of pulling off a draw but they would have to settle for a losing bonus point as Keys kept them out despite the black and ambers best efforts in the final stages.
Overall a much improved performance from Keys who, following the victory have secured their place in the end of season play offs for Tier 2. Their opposition depends largely on the result of Friday night’s winner takes all clash between Neath and Bridgend at the Gnoll. Should Neath claim a bonus point victory and Bridgend take nothing from the game then Keys are likely to face the Welsh All Blacks at the Gnoll in the semi-final on the weekend of 13th May. If Bridgend get the win, with or without a bonus point then it is likely to mean than Keys will face the Ravens at the Bridgend Ford Brewery Field. There are certain scenarios that could mean that Keys will face a return trip to Rodney Parade to take on Newport in the semi-final but the whole play-off picture should be finalised after Friday’s game at the Gnoll.
Tries: James Little (x2) & Daniel Mock
Conversions: Matt O’Brien (x2)
Penalty: Matt O’Brien
Cross Keys Scorers:-
Tries: Leon Andrews, Darren Hughes, Nathan Trowbridge & Ieuan Jones
Conversions: Josh Prosser (x3)
Penalty: Josh Prosser