Cross Keys secured a first win since mid-September as they overcame Llandovery with a dominant display at Pandy Park last Saturday.
Both sides had their chances to score inside a frantic opening 5 minutes when, firstly the Drovers broke through the Keys defensive line on the Keys 22 with around 2 minutes gone only to be stopped thanks to an ankle tap when they were just 10 metres from the Keys try line. The Keys regrouped and managed to clear the early danger. The Keys won the ball back after a poor clearance kick from their own 22 by the visitors and Keys moved back in to the Drovers 22 thanks to Leon Andrews strong run forward. The ball was shipped out wide to winger Rory Budina who did well to take play toward the Drovers try line but he was hauled down just short before Dan Babos couldn’t quite get to the loose ball to score despite his best efforts and the game remained scoreless with around 4 minutes on the clock.
The Keys remained in control and almost crossed again with 8 minutes on the clock when they set up good position from a close range driving lineout but the Drovers defended well and kept Keys at bay although they couldn’t exit their own territory with a poor clearance kick. The Keys came back at the Drovers and were awarded a penalty as a result of a high tackle as they entered the Drovers 22 once more. Outside half Jacob Botica, making his Keys debut on permit from the Dragons opted to kick at goal from in front of the posts and made no mistake to give Keys the lead with around 10 minutes played.
The Drovers then enjoyed a good spell in Keys’ territory but Keys’ defence stayed strong and the Drovers came away with nothing despite spending around 5 minutes deep in Keys territory. The Keys turned the screw and were soon back on the attack which eventually led to Keys crossing for the first try of the afternoon. A break from the halfway by Keys centre Srdan Majkic, which was continued by Leon Andrews bought Keys up to the Drovers’ 22, and after the ball was recycled quickly Keys created an overlap out wide. An excellent pass from Jacob Botica took centre Dylan Fidler in to space and he off loaded to Wes Cunliffe who stepped around the last defender and crossed for his 5th try of the season with around 22 minutes played, Botica converted the try from the left of the posts to extend Keys’ lead.
The Keys went further ahead with 28 minutes played when another good break from deep by Srdan Majkic forced Llandovery to chase back to their own terriotory. The Drovers were then guilty of killing the ball at a ruck formed around 15 metres from their own try line. Jacob Botica slotted over the resulting penalty from the right hand side of the posts.
With 3 minutes of the half remaining the Drovers won a penalty midway in to the Keys half but outside half, Jack Maynard’s attempt was missed wide. Maynard made up for that miss when he kicked his side’s first points of the afternoon with a straight forward penalty from in front of the posts with the last play of the half.
Half Time Score Cross Keys 13 Llandovery 3
The Keys defended superbly inside the opening 2 minutes of the second half when the Drovers seemed almost certain to score after creating a chance out wide but Keys’ last ditch defence was able to keep them at bay.
The Drovers looked to move play in field from the resulting ruck but a loose pass was intercepted by Keys centre Dylan Fidler close to his own try line. Fidler then passed to the supporting Ieuan Jones and the replacement carried further down field before launching a kick which was followed up by scrum half Dan Babos who twice hacked the ball on excellently and was able to win the foot race and pounce on the ball as it crossed the whitewash next to the posts for Keys’ second try of the game. Jacob Botica added the conversion to further The Keys’ lead.
Llandovery got their first try of the game with 13 minutes of the second half played, when following a lineout just 5 metres from the Keys try line they moved play in field and formed a ruck which led to prop Berian Watkins forcing his way over the line for a try which Jack Maynard converted.
The Keys won another penalty with 18 minutes of the second half played when the Drovers again committed an offence at a ruck formed on their own 22. Jacob Botica again opted to take the points and was successful with the kick to extend the Keys lead once more. Moments later, Botica was again on target with another penalty from a similar position after the Drovers were penalised for being offside which put Keys more than 2 converted tries clear of the visitors with around 18 minutes to go.
The Drovers gave themselves a chance of turning things around when Jack Maynard kicked his 2nd penalty of the day with around 12 minutes to go after Keys had gone offside in a defensive line.
The Keys were reduced to 14 men with 4 minutes to go when Rory Budina was sent to the sin bin for a deliberate knock on when attempting to intercept a stray pass from the visitors. The Drovers did have the final say as far as scoring was concerned when they crossed for their second try of the game in stoppage time when play was again moved in field following a lineout and quick handling saw the Drovers work the ball in to space which enabled Corey Baldwin to cross for the try. The conversion from Maynard was missed which meant the Drovers missed out on a potential losing bonus point.
The Keys managed to close the game out to claim a moral boosting and deserved victory over a side that would have no doubt fancied its chances before kick-off. Overall this was simply much better from Keys who rediscovered the foundations of their game as the scrum and set-piece in general looked in much better shape than it has done for a few games.
Cross Keys Scorers:-
Tries: Wes Cunliffe & Dan Babos
Conversions: Jacob Botica (x2)
Penalties: Jacob Botica (x4)
Tries: Berian Watkins & Corey Baldwin
Conversion: Jack Maynard
Penalties: Jack Maynard (x2)
Keys Man of the Match: Jacob Botica