Cross Keys claimed the narrowest of victories over fellow strugglers Bargoed following a low quality encounter at Pandy Park last Saturday.
It was Keys, attacking the club house end who made the better start and Keys went ahead when outside half Jacob Botica slotted over a straight forward penalty with a little over 2 minutes on the clock after Bargoed had offended at the tackle area on their own 22 with Keys on the attack.
The Keys kept up the pressure and doubled their lead with around 14 minutes played when hooker Ellis Shipp benefitted from an over throw from the Bulls on their own lineout to put Keys on the front foot once again. Shipp’s run up the middle of the park caused panic in the Bulls’ defence and resulted in him being bought down via a high tackle just as he reached the visitors’ 22. The resulting penalty from in front of the posts was converted by Botica to double the Keys lead early on.
As the game entered the second quarter Keys continued to keep the scoreboard ticking over as Botica slotted over his third penalty, again from around the 22 metre line after the visitors were guilty of killing the ball at a ruck, with almost 25 minutes on the clock.
Almost immediately from the restart the Bulls launched a first real foray in to the Keys 22 when they secured possession from their own lineout midway in to the Keys half. Keys conceded a penalty as the Bulls launched a driving lineout which Keys disrupted illegally. The resulting penalty saw the Bulls kick to the corner and from the lineout they again drove forward toward the Keys try line and the visitor’s captain and prop Rhys Morgan emerged from under a pile of bodies to claim the try and his side’s first points of the day in the 28th minute. Former Keys outside half Josh Prosser added the tricky conversion from the touchline to close the gap to one score.
With 5 minutes of the half remaining Keys almost crossed for a try of their own from a close range driving lineout only to be held up over the line. The resulting scrum saw both Ieuan Jones and skipper Damian Welch go close to crossing but Keys had to settle for a 4th penalty from the boot of Jacob Botica who slotted over the penalty from the left of the posts.
With a minute of the half remaining Bargoed again closed the gap to one score as former Keys man Josh Prosser kicked a penalty from around 30 metres from goal after Keys found themselves off side at a ruck.
Half Time Score Cross Keys 12 Bargoed 10
The visitors made a good start to the second half and with 5 minutes of the second half gone they had a chance to take the lead for the first time when Josh Prosser lined up a penalty from in front of the posts from around 30 metres out. Prosser misjudged the accuracy and struck the left hand post and Keys initially cleared any resulting danger.
Despite the penalty miss Bargoed’s heads didn’t drop and they stayed in Keys’ territory and after a number of penalties on, or around the Keys’ try line the visitors came away with a converted penalty try after Keys struggled at a scrum just 5 metres from their own line.
The Bulls remained in control as the half went on and Prosser had another penalty shot at goal after Keys failed to release the ball at the tackle area. Prosser’s attempt at goal, from just outside the 22 to the right hand side of the posts was sent wide as Keys breathed a sigh of relief with around 25 minutes remaining.
The Keys finally got some meaningful possession as the game approached the hour mark when Keys spent a good spell in Bargoed territory. Keys’ patience was reward on the hour when Bargoed were penalised for killing the ball at a ruck formed just outside the visitor’s 22 with Keys in possession. Keys opted for another kick at goal to close the gap and Jacob Botica made no mistake from in front of the posts, as he slotted over his 5th penalty of the day to close the gap to one score with 20 minutes remaining.
The Keys remained in control entering the final quarter as they went through numerous phases to try and create any opportunity as conditions became increasingly heavy as time went on. Keys’ replacement prop Gary Carpenter almost crossed for a try with 10 minutes to go but the try was ruled out for an apparent knock on as Carpenter crashed over.
The crucial moment came around 3 minutes from time when, with Keys still in Bargoed territory the Bulls were penalised for using no arms in a tackle around 15 metres from their own try line. Jacob Botica stepped up and calmly slotted over the penalty from the left of the posts to give Keys a one point lead.
The Keys showed excellent character and game management to close the game out from the restart and take the win.
Overall this certainly wasn’t a classic but Keys take the spoils against fellow strugglers Bargoed, a result that may well prove vital toward the tail end of the season.
Cross Keys Scorer:-
Penalties: Jacob Botica (x6)
Tries: Rhys Morgan & Penalty Try
Conversions: Josh Prosser & Penalty Try Conversion
Penalty: Josh Prosser
Keys Man of the Match: Ieuan Jones