It is beginning to look like Cross Keys will need a minor miracle to stay in the Principality Premiership after the latest defeat at Aberavon last Saturday, which leaves Keys deep in trouble, 14 points from guaranteed safety with just 5 games remaining, 3 of which are against teams (Llandovery, Newport and Pontypridd) currently sitting in the top 6 positions in the Principality Premiership table.
The opening 20 minutes of Saturday’s game against the Wizards saw the Keys compete well and it was Keys who opened when they crossed for the game’s opening try with around 13 minutes on the clock. The Keys were defending around their own 22 before a tackle by flanker Chris Johnsey forced the home side to spill the ball. Keys’ hooker Rhydian Jenkins reacted quickest to hack through the loose ball and kick the ball deep in to the Wizards’ half. Keys attacked in numbers with Jenkins, Garin Price, Wes Cunliffe and Iwan Burgwin all setting off in pursuit of the ball. Price then hacked on again as the ball moved in to the Wizards’ 22 and won the race by gathering the ball to touch down for the try just to the right of the posts. Outside half Jacob Botica added the extras with the successful conversion.
The home side replied almost immediately from the kick off and when flanker Jac Morgan broke through several Keys tackle attempts they were on the front foot moving in to the Keys’ 22. The ball was moved quickly out wide and full back Chris Banfield eased through a gap to cross for his side’s opening score which was converted, with the assistance of the post by Wizards’ captain James Garland with a little over 15 minutes on the clock to level the scores.
The Keys didn’t let this set back affect them after a good opening as Jacob Botica kicked Keys back in to the lead with a penalty in the 20th minute to the left of the posts on the 22 after the Wizards disrupted a ruck illegally with Keys looking to attack.
The home side began to turn the screw as the game entered the second quarter as the Wizards started to dominate the lineout, scrum and tackle area as Keys struggled for meaningful possession as they conceded penalties to allow the Wizards to set up good field position. With Keys’ backs against the wall after the Wizards spent a long period camped deep inside the Keys’ 22 it was no real surprise when the home side found space out wide and scrum half Iwan Temblett pounced in to a gap from the base of a ruck to cross for his side’s second try of the game with around 30 minutes on the clock. James Garland’s conversion from out wide was successful and the Wizards didn’t look back from here.
The Wizards dominance at the scrum led to their next try as a scrum 5 awarded in the home side’s favour after they were held up over the line resulted in referee Simon Rees awarding a converted penalty try with 2 minutes of the half remaining as Keys failed to deal with the Wizards dominance up front. With the final play of the first half the Wizards crossed for their bonus point try after a neat move following a lineout just outside the Keys’ 22 led to scrum half Iwan Temblett darting through a gap at the lineout and outpacing the Keys’ defence to cross in the corner for the bonus point try which Garland failed to convert from the touchline.
Half time Score Aberavon 26 Cross Keys 10
The Wizards got their 5th try just 5 minutes in to the second half when flanker Joe Tomalin-Reeves squeezed over in the corner after a quick tap penalty by scrum half Iwan Temblett saw Keys’ defence looking disjointed and quick play through the hands led to Tomalin-Reeves going over in the corner. James Garland was this time able to add the conversion from the touchline to further the home side’s lead.
The Wizards’ 6th try came almost immediately from the restart with just 6 minutes of the second half played when the home side benefitted from Keys restart not going 10 metres but instead of waiting for the referee’s whistle the Wizards played at the loose ball and broke free in to the Keys half. Play was moved back in field and Garland’s kick across field was perfectly weighted for wing Steff Andrews and he crossed for the try out wide. Garland was this time unable to add the conversion from the touchline.
The Keys cause was not helped by the fact that they were reduced to 14 men with around 28 minutes remaing when Tom Lampard was sent to the sin bin after a ruck offence with Aberavon once again camped on the Keys’ try line. The Wizards, understandably opted for a scrum from the resulting penalty, such was their dominance and they launched another formidable attacking scrum which Keys couldn’t stop and flanker Jac Morgan pounced to score his side’s 7th try with 53 minutes on the clock. James Garland added the conversion.
With replacements being made by both side’s the pace of the game slowed down somewhat and became a little scrappy over the next 10 minutes but the Wizards were able to bring up the 50 points with 15 minutes to go when replacement Will Price went over after the Wizards again found space all too easily out wide and full back Chris Banfield delivered the scoring pass in field to Price who was available in support. James Garland again added the extras from out wide.
The Wizards were reduced to 14 men when replacement Will Price, who had crossed for a try just 5 minutes before was sent to the sin bin following a high tackle. Keys grabbed what was nothing more than a consolation try after winning a turnover on the own 22, thanks to good work at a ruck by replacement Corey Nicholls. The ball was then hacked down field by replacement scrum half Dan Babos, who pursued his own kick and benefitted from a spill by Chris Banfield in defence to cross for Keys’ second try which Jacob Botica failed to convert from out wide.
After a long delay following Babos’ try where Keys’ Garin Price received treatment after he was injured in the build up to the try the game fizzled out although Price was able to walk off the pitch unaided after the stretcher had initially been called for. The Wizards finished the game with 13 men as Shaun Pearce joined his fellow replacement Price in the sin bin after a deliberate knock on with Keys almost crossing in the corner for another consolation try with the last play of the game.
Overall the fact that Keys conceded 50 points for a 3rd successive game tells its own story but truthfully the issue is not necessarily solely down to defensive frailties it is also due to the fact that Keys set piece, particularly their scrum, which has traditionally been an excellent aspect of Keys’ game has suffered in massively in recent weeks and this is allowing teams to have good field position all too easily and is starving Keys of possession meaning they often feed of scraps of possession in the hunt for scores.
Tries: Iwan Temblett (x2), Chris Banfield, Joe Tomalin-Reeves, Steff Andrews, Jac Morgan, Will Price & Penalty Try
Conversions: Jam es Garland (x5) & Penalty Try
Cross Keys Scorers:-
Tries: Garin Price & Dan Babos
Conversion: Jacob Botica
Penalty: Jacob Botica