Cross Keys cruised to a comfortable victory at Neath on Thursday evening, giving the new coaching team their second victory in as many games at the start of their tenure.
The Keys didn’t make the best of starts to the game and the home side had an opportunity to open the scoring with a little under 2 minutes played when full back Ed Howley lined up a penalty but that kick was missed. The Welsh All Blacks did go ahead after 5 minutes of play when a break from deep by Ed Howley down the left flank saw Keys miss a number of crucial tackles and Howley found scrum half Scott Gibson in support as he burst toward the Keys 22. Gibson did the rest to finish off with a try in the far left hand corner. Howley missed the tricky conversion from the touchline.
Keys then built up some good field position and after a long period of pressure in the Neath 22 when Scott Matthews, Josh Skinner, James Leadbeater and Darren Hughes all went close to crossing. The ball was eventually worked in to the arms of prop Scott Evans and he barged over close to the posts from close range with 14 minutes played. Josh Prosser added the straight forward conversion to give Keys a slender 7-5 lead with a quarter of an hour played.
The Keys lead was extended just 3 minutes later when an impressive carry from Scott Evans from around his own 22 toward the halfway line, saw James Leadbeater in support and Leadbeater raced on with the ball to the Neath 22. He had plenty of options to choose from as several Keys players were in support, the ball was fed out to winger Nathan Trowbridge who chose to pass back in inside to find centre Leon Andrews who had the simple task of finishing off a fine move, going in under the posts for Keys’ second try of the game. Josh Prosser again converting the straight forward kick on offer.
The Keys failed to deal with the restart and almost immediately Neath found themselves on the front foot with Keys only able to recover thanks to some last ditch tackles close to their own try line. The Welsh All Blacks kept up the pressure and the ball was worked out wide to winger Geraint Llewelyn who managed to squeeze over for his side’s second try in the far left corner. Ed Howley this time adding the touchline conversion with 22 minutes on the clock.
The game then settled after a somewhat lively opening quarter.
The Keys eventually extended their lead just a couple of minutes before half time when, from good position in the Neath 22 the ball was worked from one side of the pitch to the other and hooker Darren Hughes was barged over in the corner for Keys’ 3rd try of the game, Prosser this time failed to add the conversion.
Half Time Score Neath 12 Cross Keys 19
The home side closed the gap early in the second half when Ed Howley kicked a straight forward penalty with just 3 minutes of the second half played. This penalty lifted Neath’s spirits and they continued to spend the next passage of play in and around the Keys 22. They went close to crossing for their 3rd try which would have seen them take the lead around 10 minutes in to the half but they couldn’t quite finish the chances that came their way. One of these chances saw Keys reduced to 14 men when Keys’ skipper Scott Matthews was sent to the sin bin when he prevented a quick tap penalty from Neath from close range with 8 minutes of the second half played.
This sin binning appeared to galvanise Keys and they secured a bonus point when Phil Williams cleverly jinked his way through to cross for Keys’ 4th try in front of the shed with 52 minutes on the clock. Josh Prosser was back on target with the conversion.
From here it was one way traffic with Keys using their pack to good effect as well as looking to attack out wide when the opportunities arose. With 15 minutes of the game remaining the home side were reduced to 14 men for a deliberate knock on when Keys looked almost certain to score out wide. Josh Prosser kicked the resulting penalty with Keys looking to have all but wrap the game up.
With the game entering the final 10 minutes and Neath looking low on any confidence Keys put the game to bed when from a driving lineout Keys secured possession close to the Neath try line and Darren Hughes went over for his second try of the game. Josh Prosser on target with the conversion from out wide
The Keys grabbed their 6th try and passed the 40 point mark around 3 minutes from time when an almost carbon copy driving lineout from close range found skipper Scott Matthews in control of the ball as the pack marched toward the try line and Matthews powered over for the try which was not converted.
Overall an excellent victory on the road at the Gnoll, which was the scene of 2 drubbings for Keys last season. There are certainly signs of a change of style and direction for Keys and it is certainly working to good effect at the moment under the new look coaching team.
Tries: Scott Gibson & Geraint Llewelyn
Conversion: Ed Howley
Penalty: Ed Howley
Cross Keys Scorers:-
Tries: Darren Hughes (x2), Scott Evans, Leon Andrews, Phil Williams & Scott Matthews
Conversions: Josh Prosser (x4)
Penalty: Josh Prosser