In spite of two recent magnificent wins over Neath and Pontypridd, Newport knew this was going to be a tough ask. Cross Keys were looking for a rare double over their neighbours while Newport were looking for their 100th win over the Keys. For 52 mins Newport were still in the game trailing by just 14-17 but then their frailties were cruelly exposed and things just got worse with the B&A's pulling 3 players off the bench for their debuts - Rhys Buckley, Mark Cox and Lance Randall as well as hooker Dale Rogers replacing injured back row Carl Townsend and scrum-half Josh Davies replacing wing Owen Broad. To make things worse they finished with only 14 men as full-back Jamie Smith left the field just before the end. It was a sad sight for those Newport supporters who had made the short trip and sadly for both teams there was a very small crowd to witness Cross Keys record their biggest ever win over their local rivals.
Next season can only get better for Newport !
Chris Kirwan, SWA writes :
Cross Keys secured a Gwent Grand Slam and maintained their push for the Premiership title after a second half blitz secured a bonus point win against Newport at Pandy Park.The Black and Ambers headed into the game in fine form after wins against play-off chasing Neath and Pontypridd. But they were unable to secure a hat-trick, going down to Keys in an entertaining encounter that for large periods was closer than the scoreline would suggest. Nonetheless the home side were good value for a win that means that they have done a clean sweep against clubs from the Dragons region following their Boxing Day win at Rodney Parade and double successes against Pontypool and Bedwas. The five points also lifts them to second in the table.
Both sides had a makeshift look to them – the hosts missing some key backs and forced to field fly-half Sam Mills in midfield while the visitors were struggling up front with loosehead prop Dai Pattison at tight-head and blindside flanker Carl Townsend at openside.
Keys were close to opening the scoring in the first minute but centre Luke Williams was unable to win the race to his own grubber kick through. And it was the visitors who drew first blood when, after a powerful incision by centre Scott Williams, fly-half Ryan James spread the ball out wide for flanker Sam Waldron to cross. Scrum-half James Leadbeater, like James a former Keys player, added the extras from out wide. Back came the hosts through their strong front eight and a sustained period of set piece pressure was rewarded in the 16th min. Skipper Rob Nash peeled off the back of a drive to barge over with fly-half Dean Gunter expertly levelling the scores from the right touchline. After striking back thanks to some good honest grunt Keys took the lead when a lovely attacking move featuring offloads galore earned a Gunter penalty. Keys were bossing territory and possession but the Black and Ambers clung on in there despite a yellow card for centre Luke Plummer on 24 mins for a deliberate knock-on.
At times Sven Cronk’s side were at breaking point yet they displayed the spirit in defence that had helped win five of their last six league games. But the pressure eventually paid off when, despite some dodgy passing, wing Kristian Baller raced over down the right. Gunter added another super conversion but Newport stormed back just as the Pandy Park outfit were contemplating a comfortable victory. A gallop down the wing by hooker Andrew Brown was followed by Williams picking on the defensive frailty of Mills to cross. Leadbeater converted and the Black and Ambers could have been level at the break only for the scrum-half to pull as 40-metre penalty wide left.
The frantic nature of the game continued in the second half with both sides enjoying bouts of pressure but also making errors aplenty. The next score was going to be a crucial one and it was the hosts who got it, once again through that man Baller. The winger injected pace into a pedestrian attack in the 22 to race over on 52 mins with Gunter making it 24-13. And the bonus point was in the bag before the hour when lock Dan Hodge, who produced some nice offloads throughout, was at the bottom of a rumble over the line. It got worse for Newport both on the injury front and on the scoreboard. With plenty of square pegs in round holes Keys kept racking up the points with Gunter hitting the line at speed for a fifth try and then setting up Hodge, who won the world’s slowest race to a cross-kick against prop Dai Pattison. A late interception try by Tom Lampard only served to rub salt into Newport’s wound.
Photos courtesy of Simon Latham.: