Bridgend left Pandy Park with a fully deserved victory following a scrappy re-arranged Principality Premiership fixture on Tuesday evening.
Constant rainfall, which started around half an hour before Kick Off and continued throughout meant that the greasy conditions were to dominate proceedings thanks to neither side being able to string anything meaningful together. It must be said that the field conditions were superb given the heavy criticism often aimed at the Pandy Park surface.
After both sides had struggled for possession in the opening quarter it was Keys who went in to the lead when, following the decision to kick to the corner rather than take a relatively easy 3 points that were on offer after Bridgend found themselves off side on their own 22. The kick to the corner saw Keys secure possession from the resulting lineout and a series of drives forward saw numerous players go close to crossing before skipper Scott Matthews pounced to cross for the game’s opening score with around 20 minutes on the clock. Josh Prosser was able to add the extras despite the blustery wind making conditions more like the first week of November rather than the first day of May.
The Ravens started to turn the screw immediately; using their powerful pack both in the loose and at scrum time to give them good field position as they attacked the club house end. That forward dominance combined with Keys constant failure to secure lineout ball meant that the visitors were able to move up field, much to Keys’ frustration. With the Ravens settled in the Keys 22 and with advantage being played, Ravens’ fly half Jamie Murphy sat back in the pocket and slotted over a neat drop goal to close the gap with around 25 minutes played.
The Keys were continuing to find opportunities hard to come by and a speculative kick forward by the Ravens, which looked like a play for position rather than anything which would create a chance saw Keys young full back David Richards panic somewhat around his own 22 and he threw a wild pass out wide which, assisted by the wind bounced kindly for the oncoming Ravens attack with second row Chris John picking up the loose ball and galloping home from around 20 metres out to enable his side to go in to the lead with 10 minutes of the first half remaining. Outside half Jamie Murphy added the extras from the left of the posts as the Ravens extended the lead that they would not lose for the remainder of the game.
Despite Keys best efforts they found the Ravens a tough nut to crack for the remainder of the half such was their dominance up front as well as Keys’ continued failure in the set piece.
Half Time Score Cross Keys 7 Bridgend 10
It looked as though Keys may well have sprung to life early in the second half but the early chances that came their way all came to nothing with the Ravens calmly soaking up the pressure and being able to clear their lines with some well organised defensive work.
As the second half went on the visitors began to dominate once again but the greasy conditions meant the ball was often like a bar of soap so the chances that were being created were coming to nothing.
With 20 minutes remaining Jamie Murphy extended the Ravens lead with a straight forward penalty.
Keys continued to ring the changes in the closing quarter as they looked for a change in fortune but the fact that the Ravens were simply managing conditions better meant that whatever Keys attempted seemed to come to nothing and the visitors were able to soak up any pressure.
In the closing 5 minutes a series of penalties meant that Keys were camped deep in the Ravens 22 in possession with the hope of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat with a converted try. That wasn’t to be as the Ravens’ defence stood firm to claim a well-deserved victory after a game that at times, aside from the conditions resembled a typical end of season affair.
With 4 games to go at Newport and at home to Llanelli, Pontypridd and Ebbw Vale over the next fortnight Keys won’t want to put their feet up just yet but will need a big improvement, in terms of attitude and skill set based on the previous 2 games, at Bedwas and after this game against Bridgend if they are to make it happy end to the season at Pandy Park.
Cross Keys Scorers:-
Try: Scott Matthews
Conversion: Josh Prosser
Bridgend Ravens Scorers:-
Try: Chris John
Conversion: Jamie Murphy
Penalty: Jamie Murphy
Drop Goal: Jamie Murphy
Cross Keys Man of the Match: Tom Lampard