Pontypridd secured a comfortable victory over Cross Keys last Saturday. With the Keys back line looking barely recognisable, it was perhaps inevitable that on a day where running rugby was likely to be on the cards Ponty’s experience and more settled squad did the damage. Of Keys starting line-up against Ponty only scrum half James Leadbeater and Mathew Powell, who started in the unfamiliar role of full back could be classed as regular starters in the back whilst centre Ben Snell had only started 1 game for Keys prior to the Ponty game.
Ponty started well and went ahead after a little under 5 minutes of play Ponty secured possession from a ruck formed on the Keys’ 22. The ball was worked to winger Dale Stuckey who managed to break through a number of attempted Keys tackles and had the power to get himself over the line to cross for the game’s opening score next to the posts. Outside half Diggy Bird added the extras.
With 9 minutes on the clock Keys were reduced to 14 men when make shift full back, Mathew Powell was sent to the sin bin for a late tackle around the halfway line.
The Keys looked to attack from deep when a rampaging run from flanker Garin Price took Keys away from their own 22 before he was hauled down as he approached hallway. Ponty won the ball back and broke free to make their way back to Keys’ 22. A good burst almost led to centre Alex Knott crossing for the visitors but he was bought down just short of the line. The ball was recycled quickly and Ponty number 8 Hemi Barnes was on hand to barge his way over for his side’s second try with 13 minutes played. Diggy Bird added the conversion.
With Keys still down to 14 men Ponty crossed for their 3rd try with 17 minutes played when from a scrum formed in the middle of the park on the Keys 22, the visitors were able to exploit an overlap outwide and full back Lloyd Rowlands made his way through to cross for the try after breaking through the last line of defence. Bird was again able to slot the conversion over from the left hand side of the posts.
After a frantic opening quarter, Keys finally had some meaningful play as the game entered the second quarter with Scott Evans and Scott Matthews both cutting holes in to the Ponty defence. The visitors remained calm and were able to force a turnover which quickly turned defence in to attack. The again created a gap out wide which full back Rowlands again put to good to use to glide through and clinch the bonus point for his side with a try under the posts with a little under 30 minutes on the clock. Diggy Bird added the simplest of conversions.
Keys finally stopped the flow when, with 30 minutes on the clock a big surge forward set up good field position and thanks to carries from Matthews, Evans and hooker Darren Hughes, Ieuan Jones was able to force his way over for Keys’ opening score of the game with a try in front of the scoreboard. Scrum half James Leadbeater added the conversion to give Keys a glimmer of hope.
The Keys continued to have a good spell but a spilled ball in midfield gifted Ponty possession and quick handling saw the ball worked out wide to Dale Stucky and the winger was able race away and grabbed his 2nd try of the game with 38 minutes on the clock. Diggy Bird continued his faultless kicking display as Ponty took a commanding lead in to the interval.
Half Time Score: Cross Keys 7 Ebbw Vale 35
The Keys showed plenty of desire with a never say die attitude in the early stages of the second half. With Ponty perhaps showing signs of complacency Keys started the second half in superb fashion. Skipper Scott Matthews burst forward in to the Ponty 22. Matthews was able to off load to the supporting Tom Lampard who couldn’t quite get to the line himself but he returned the ball to Matthews who did the rest to cross for his 14th try of the season. James Leadbeater was on target with the conversion with around 4 minutes of the half played.
Keys continued in the ascendancy and Ponty looked almost shell shocked when with 48 minutes on the clock they crossed again. A quick tap penalty from Leadbeater just 5 metres out from the Ponty try line initially saw Garin Price go close to crossing but he was stopped jusy short. Keys recycled the ball quickly and prop Scott Evans was on hand to force his way over for Keys’ 3rd try of the game, which was again converted by Leadbeater to the right hand side of the posts.
Ponty slowly looked to be turning the game back in their favour as the game headed toward the closing quarter. An attempted grubber kick through from the halfway line by Ponty’s Diggy Bird was gathered by Keys’ replacement Duan Thomas and the 18 year old centre was able to race away from over 60 metres out to cross for Keys’ bonus point score which with another successful conversion from Leadbeater meant Keys had now closed the gap to just one score with around 20 minutes remaining.
Any hopes of a miraculous comeback were all but ended when almost immediately following the restart Ponty were able to create space out wide when the ball was moved from one side of the pitch to the other and Ponty skipper Rhys Shellard was on hand to cross in the far corner to cross for his side’s 6th try of the afternoon. Diggy Bird again added the extras.
With around 10 minutes remaining Ponty winger Dale Stuckey completed his hat-trick when he again was worked in to space out wide and he was able to round the Keys’ defence to cross under the posts. Replacement Jordan Rees added the conversion from in front of the posts. The visitors bought up the 50 points in added time when Keys found themselves at sixes and sevens following a quick tap penalty from Ponty deep in their own half. The visitors moved up field quickly and replacement prop Joe Popple was on hand to canter over for his side’s 8th try of the day. Jordan Rees again added the simple conversion from in front of the posts to bring the game to a close.
Overall a valiant effort from Keys who ended the game with at least 6 players on the pitch aged 18 or under and they certainly showed signs that the future is bright by showing a never say die attitude against the experience that Ponty had on show.
Cross Keys Scorers:-
Tries: Ieuan Jones, Scott Matthews, Scott Evans & Duan Thomas
Conversions: James Leadbeater (x4)
Tries: Dale Stuckey (x3), Lloyd Rowlands (x2), Hemi Barnes, Rhys Shellard & Joe Popple
Conversions: Diggy Bird (x6) & Jordan Rees (x2)
Keys Man of the Match: James Leadbeater