In what was always likely to be a tough task for Cross Keys, reigning champions and current Principality Premiership leaders Merthyr simply proved too good for Keys, who fought hard throughout and took a deserved bonus point for their efforts after an entertaining clash at The Wern on Friday evening.
The Ironmen dominated the early stages and it was no shock when they went ahead in the 10thminute when, following a driving lineout, which Keys initially halted the ball was swept out wide to the opposite wing and from a loose pass, the ball bounced kindly around the Keys 22 for winger Lewis Williams, who broke through the last ditch tackle attempt to cross for the game’s opening try which was converted by outside half Richard Powell from the right of the posts.
The Keys enjoyed a good spell of pressure following the restart and had a chance to close the gap when Jason Tovey lined up a penalty in the 15th minute. Tovey’s effort struck the post and Merthyr were able to eventually relieve the pressure. Shortly after Merthyr had cleared their own territory they extended their lead when a burst forward from wing Jay Baker caused panic in the Keys defence and the ball was swept out to the opposite flank, where prop Nathan Trevett found himself in possession and he came in field and crossed for a second try for the Ironmen with 22 minutes played. Richard Powell adding the extras with the conversion.
Merthyr attacked immediately from the restart and a series of big carries forward combined with a clever kick in to the Keys 22 led to the Ironmen setting up good field position. Keys made a mess of a defensive lineout which eventually saw the ball worked out wide once more and this time Jay Baker had the simple task of crossing for a try in the corner with 26 minutes played, Powell again adding the extras from the touchline.
The Keys again caused Merthyr one or two problems following the restart and after Keys had set up field position and secured possession from a close range lineout. Play moved in field and after Dylan Fidler and Garin Price had both gone close to crossing, Keys prop Scott Evans was on hand to barge over for Keys’ first points of the game with around 32 minutes played. Jason Tovey added the extras from the left of the posts.
The Ironmen secured a 4 try bonus point with around 3 minutes of the half remaining when hooker Rhys Williams crossed following a driving lineout. Richard Powell once again adding the extras. Keys’ heads didn’t drop and they were soon over for a second try when an initial carry forward by Scott Andrews almost led to a try only for number 8 Garin Price to cross for the try after a ruck formed on the Merthyr try line, Jason Tovey adding the tricky conversion from the touchline. Merthyr scrum half Adam Hoskins was then sent to the sin bin for an offence at the breakdown in the build up to Price’s try.
Half Time Score Merthyr 28 Cross Keys 14
With five minutes of the second half played, The Ironmen crossed for their 5th try when a driving maul following a lineout was only ever going to end in one way as Keys struggled to halt the drive. Prop Nathan Trevett was on hand to cross for his second try of the game which Richard Powell this time failed to convert.
Despite enjoying the lion’s share of possession for the next 5 minutes Keys failed to make any real progress in to Merthyr territory such was the Ironmen’s defensive organisation and dominance. Against the run of play, Merthyr then turned the screw once more after winning possession back and a clever chip and chase from Powell turned defence in to attack and scrum half Adam Hoskins, who had only returned from the sin bin just 30 seconds earlier was on hand to receive Powell’s pass and cross under the posts for the try which Powell duly converted with 10 minutes of the second half played.
With around 16 minutes of the game remaining Keys crossed for their 3rd try when from a scrum on the Merthyr 5 metre line Keys looked to create an opportunity in field. They eventually found space out wide and replacement Rory Budina squeezed through to cross in the corner for the try which Jason Tovey converted wonderfully from the touchline.
The Ironmen bounced back almost immediately when full back Joseph Williams punished some weak defence from Keys to cross in the corner for his side’s 6th try of the game with 13 minutes to go, Powell couldn’t add the touchline conversion.
The Ironmen were reduced to 14 men with 8 minutes remaining when their skipper Craig Locke was sent to the sin bin for killing the ball as Keys looked to attack around the Merthyr 22. The skipper had been warned by the referee just moments earlier about his side’s discipline and backchat. A mixture of well disciplined and patient build up play led to Keys securing a bonus point for their 4th try when after several attempts of a driving lineout, each of which saw Merthyr commit an offence at the resulting breakdown, replacement hooker Rhydian Jenkins found himself in control of the ball as Keys secured their deserved bonus point with 5 minutes to play, Tovey once again converting from out wide.
With the last play of an excellent encounter Merthyr bought up their 50 points when after spending almost the entire final 5 minutes camped on the Keys try line, scrum half Adam Hoskins was able to break from the base of a scrum to grab his second try of the evening which was converted from out wide by Richard Powell.
Overall a valiant effort from Keys against a side that are no doubt going to be the team to beat come the end of the season. There were certainly signs of encouragement from Keys performance which has perhaps been lacking in the past few weeks.
Tries: Nathan Trevett (x2), Adam Hoskins (x2), Lewis Williams, Jay Baker, Rhys Williams & Joseph Williams
Conversions: Richard Powell (x6)
Cross Keys Scorers:-
Tries: Scott Evans, Garin Price, Rory Budina & Rhydian Jenkins
Conversions: Jason Tovey (x4)