Cross Keys claimed an outstanding victory over Newport at a lush, sun-drenched Rodney Parade last Saturday afternoon.
The Keys, who had a somewhat makeshift backline on show were on the attack from the off. One of the only familiar faces playing in a regular position for Keys, Owain Leonard was unfortunately injured inside the opening 3 minutes and had to be replaced early on, meaning a re-jig saw James Leadbeater move forward from the unfamiliar full back position to continue the game in his regular scrum half role.
That re-jig didn’t unsettle Keys at all and with momentum firmly in their favour despite the long delay following Leonard’s injury, Keys opened the scoring when play was settled on the black and ambers try line and after Nathan Trowbridge had gone close out wide, debutant Foard Cooksley, who impressed on permit from Aberavon Quins opened up the home side’s defence with a clever show and go and he crashed over close to the posts for the game’s opening score with 5 minutes on the clock. James Leadbeater took the kicking role and added the straight forward conversion for Keys to have the perfect start.
Keys didn’t let up and relentless pressure on the Newport defence paid dividends as Ieuan Jones and Scott Williams, on permit from Bargoed and Newbridge respectively both went close to crossing but were stopped short of the Newport line. A resulting ruck from Williams’ chance gave skipper Scott Matthews the chance and he crossed in familiar fashion after breaking free of the ruck area close to the posts. Leadbeater again adding the straight forward extras with around 9 minutes on the clock.
Keys continued to pile on the pressure but following some decent attacks from deep from Darren Hughes, Joe Thomas and Tom Lampard in particular the Keys’ chances came to nothing as, after an opening 15 minutes of constant, ferocious pressure from Keys deep in their own territory, Newport collectively breathed a huge sigh of relief as the game finally broke up.
It was probably the home side that had the better chances as the half went on but some excellent defensive work from Keys, combined with the final pass not quite going to hand meant Newport approached the half an hour mark still looking for their first points.
The Keys were reduced to 14 men with 31 minutes on the clock when flanker Joe Thomas was sent to the sin bin as he stopped Newport from taking a quick tap penalty from the 22. With Keys now under firm pressure, Newport moved the ball through the hands quickly and they created an overlap out wide which winger Jon Morris exploited to touch down in the corner with 34 minutes on the clock. Matt O’Brien failed to add the extras from the touch line.
Just a few minutes before the end of the regular 40 minutes Keys were reduced to 13 men when skipper Scott Matthews joined his fellow back row man Thomas in the sin bin after he offended at a ruck. Keys coped well under pressure and almost scored a third try as they broke from their own 22 with a Josh Skinner kick and chase making it’s way toward the Newport line. The Newport defence won the foot race and cleared their lines well under pressure from Keys as the half drew to a close after 8 minutes of added time.
Half Time Score Newport 5 Cross Keys 14
Newport closed the gap inside the opening 5 minutes of the second half when following pressure on the Keys line from a close range lineout, the black and ambers found space in the back line and sent centre Chay Smith over the line for their second try of the game. Matt O’Brien this time was able to add the conversion as Newport closed the gap to a single score.
Newport skipper Rhys Jenkins was sent to the sin bin with 50 minutes on the clock as, after tempers had flared following a dangerous tackle on Keys’ centre Mathew Powell, Jenkins appeared to aim a punch in Powell’s direction and received the yellow card for his troubles. Keys made their one man advantage count immediately when following a precise kick to the corner the secured possession at the lineout and a series of drives forward led to prop Gary Carpenter pouncing over the line for Keys’ 3rd try of the day. James Leadbeater added the tricky conversion to extend Keys lead with a little under 30 minutes to play.
Newport had their chances as the hour approached but Keys remained in control and soaked up the pressure, much to the frustration of the Newport players and supporters alike.
The Keys secured the bonus point with around 15 minutes remaining. A untidy passage of play from the black and ambers around the half way line saw the ball being spilled backward toward their own try line and Keys’ winger Nathan Trowbridge was quickest to react as he raced through to pick up the loose ball and cross under the posts for his side’s 4th try. Leadbeater adding the extras which gave Newport a mountain to climb as they would now need 3 converted scores to turn the game on its head.
Newport responded well and after good pressure from a scrum gave the home side good field position, they won the ball at a resulting ruck on the Keys’ line and replacement Alex Everitt stretched out to grab the try with just under 10 minutes remaining. Matt O’Brien added the conversion.
Keys grabbed their 5th try with just a couple of minutes remaining when another mix up from Newport, thanks largely to a huge hit from Keys’ centre Scott Williams, on the half way line led to a loose ball being read superbly by Mathew Powell and Powell then had the simple task of picking up the loose ball and racing home to cross under the posts at the changing room end of the ground. Leadbeater maintained his 100% record with the boot by adding the conversion.
Keys secured possession from the restart and played the clock down to secure an outstanding win in the sunshine.
Tries: Jonathan Morris, Chay Smith & Alex Everitt
Conversions: Matt O’Brien (x2)
Cross Keys Scorers:-
Tries: Foard Cooksley, Scott Matthews, Gary Carpenter, Nathan Trowbridge & Mathew Powell
Conversions: James Leadbeater (x5)