Cross Keys’ unbeaten start to 2018 continued last Saturday at Swansea as not even an earthquake in the locality, combined with a terrific comeback from the Whites late in the second half, could stop Keys from claiming a bonus point victory at St. Helens.
The Keys were on top from the off and a spilled ball almost immediately from the kick off allowed Keys to launch an early attack. A lineout was won in the corner and Keys’ second row Scott Andrews found his attempted attack disrupted as the Whites were able to clear their lines, if only temporarily.
The Keys stayed in Swansea territory and patient build up play where Keys camped on the Whites try line and after a series of pick and goes toward the try line eventually led to prop, Richard Cornock crashing over with around 10 minutes played. Josh Prosser was surprisingly off target with what appeared to be a relatively straight forward conversion attempt to the right of the posts.
Keys continued to apply pressure and an impressive burst in to the Swansea 22 by Josh Prosser which was continued by centre Lewis Barnett almost bought a second try but as the ball was sent out wide, Keys knocked on and possession was lost. Keys went close to crossing again moments later as an excellent individual break from Tom Lampard piled the pressure onto the Whites. The ball was again worked out wide as Lampard was eventually hauled down, but Barney Nightingale could not quite make the line and was kept out by some excellent last ditch defending from the home side.
With 30 minutes played Keys continued dominance finally enabled them to extend their lead as, following a powerful break from impressive centre Jarryd Sage Keys won a penalty as Swansea went off their feet at a ruck, which enabled full back Josh Prosser to further Keys’ lead with a penalty.
Swansea finally got themselves in to Keys’ territory late in the first half and with their first real foray in to the Keys 22 they almost crossed for a try but Keys kept them out, although Keys were guilty of pulling down a rolling maul. The resulting penalty was kicked to touch but a last ditch tackle forced Swansea in to touch with the try line looming. Swansea got on to the score board as the first half drew to a close with former Keys man Owen Howe kicking a penalty from in front of the posts for the Whites.
Half Time Score - Swansea 3 Cross Keys 8
The second half got off to a perfect start when just a few minutes in to the second half, a break up the middle of the park from Tom Lampard enabled Keys to get on the front foot and the ball was worked out wide once more and this time Keys were not going to be denied the try as Josh Skinner powered his way over from close range to cross for Keys’ second try of the game. Josh Prosser adding the extras from the touchline.
The Whites responded well and after a good period of pressure they doubled their tally when Owen Howe kicked his second penalty of the afternoon from in front of the posts with around 10 minutes of the second half gone.
Just a couple of minutes later Keys opted to kick to the corner as they were awarded a penalty around the Whites’ 22. Prosser’s kick to the corner was judged to perfection and from the driving lineout Keys made their way to the home side’s try line and captain Scott Matthews (not Darren Hughes as stated elsewhere) was on hand to force his way over for his side’s 3rd try of the afternoon with 52 minutes on the clock. Prosser was this time unable to add the touchline conversion.
With an hour played, The Keys hit Swansea on the counter and forced an error as the Whites’ attempted to exit their own half. The ball was spilled and Josh Skinner was quickest to react and from the halfway line he kicked through the loose ball before again kicking forward as he entered the 22 and he then pounced on to the ball to score his second try to secure Keys’ 4 try bonus point with 20 minutes remaining. Josh Prosser was back on target with the conversion as Keys looked to have all but secured the win.
From the restart it was Swansea who were looking more dangerous and when Keys were reduced to 14 men with Luke Garrett sent to the sin bin following a no arms tackle, the Whites sensed a comeback was potentially on. They crossed for their first try of the game with 15 minutes remaining when replacement scrum half Josh Guy darted over from the bass of a ruck close to the Keys try line. Gareth Walters added the straight forward conversion.
With their tails up the Whites attacked from deep and a speculative kick forward from their own half caused panic in the Keys defence when a loose ball was not dealt with and former Ospreys full back Richard Fussell rolled back they years to pounce and hack through a loose ball and cross under the posts for a try which was converted by Walters with under 10 minutes remaining.
The writing looked on the wall for Keys when, despite being back to their full complement of players they remained under pressure and Gareth Walters kicked his side’s 3rd penalty of the game with under 5 minutes to go to close the gap to one score.
Keys finally had some possession and looked to run the clock down as they entered Swansea territory for the first time in what seemed like an eternity. Keys looked to have created space out wide with Swansea running out of numbers in defence but Keys’ progress was halted illegally as James Davies was off side with Keys putting width on their play. Davies saw yellow for his troubles and Josh Prosser duly converted the resulting penalty to ensure at least a share of the points with Keys now 7 points clear as the game entered added time.
During added time Keys found themselves under pressure once more and were down to 14 men once again as Lewis Barnett was sent to the sin bin for a dangerous tackle deep inside the Keys’ 22 with Swansea piling on the pressure. A massive defensive effort from Keys kept the Whites out and after a knock on by the Whites as they went through the phases, the referee bought play to an end, and Keys breathed a collective sigh of relief.
Tries: Josh Guy & Richard Fussell
Conversion: Gareth Walters (x2)
Penalties: Owen Howe (x2) & Gareth Walters
Cross Keys Scorers:-
Tries: Josh Skinner (x2), Richard Cornock & Scott Matthews
Conversions: Josh Prosser (x2)
Penalties: Josh Prosser (x2)