This match was billed before kick off as a 'dead rubber' as neither side had a chance of qualifying from pool 4 of this season's British & Irish Cup. This however was a Gwent derby between to great rivals and lacked nothing in passion, pride and aggression from the first minute to the last.
Newport definately started the game better than Keys and for the first 25 minutes or so looked like making their way to a comfortable victory as Keys could not secure any meaningful possesion to create any real opportunites. The Keys scrum however was incredibly dominant from the word go but the lineout left a lot to be desired although it did improve as the game went on.
The black and ambers opened the scoring in the first minute with an easy penalty kicked by outside half Tom Hancock. After the next 10 minutes being disrupted time and time again by needless bouts of fighting breaking out, the referee decided enough was enough and Keys' skipper Garry Horrigan and Newport's Dafydd Rosser were sent to the sin bin to cool off for 10 minutes. Newport added a second penalty in the 15th minute thanks to Hancock once again and then just 3 minutes after this, the first try was scored thanks to black and ambers wing Elliot Frewen who crossed the whitewash with Hancock failing with the conversion.
Dafydd Rosser, just 2 minutes after returning from the sin bin then crossed for the home sides second try after another scrappy Keys lineout which was pounced upon by former Keys scrum half James Leadbeater who made the break to feed Rosser who crossed comfortably in the corner. The referee stopped Tom Hancock's conversion attempt momentarily to issue yellow cards to Keys' Danny Hodge and Newport's Rhodri Jones following another fight that broke out as Rosser crossed the line. Hancock failing once again with the conversion. Keys started to turn the screw as the half hour mark passed and the pressure told shortly after as Dean Gunter crossed in the corner following good build up play but Gunter failed with the conversion. Gunter had 2 opportunties to close the gap before the interval but failed with both penalty attempts.
Half Time Score: Newport 16 Cross Keys 5
The Keys started the second half in totally different fashion to how they started the first and a series of drives saw centre Aled James crash over to bring Keys back into contention. Dean Gunter added the extras to bring Keys back to within a score of the black and ambers. It was Keys who continued to build in confidence and momentum continued to grow and Ryan James, who rejoined Keys from the black and ambers this season crossed in the corner as Keys were really getting on top of the hosts who seemed to have no answer to Keys forward dominance.
Keys were continuing to press but Gunter failed with another penalty attempt in the 51st minute. On the hour mark a number of scrums were awarded to Keys on the Newport line and Keys dominance in this area continued to show this time with young replacement James Johnstone getting the better of the black and ambers experienced Gethin Robinson together with Keys stalwart Craig Gould. After one to many offences at scrum time the referee went under the posts to award Keys a penalty try, Keys second in as many games, Gunter converting. This try securing the bonus point for Keys.
The black and ambers came back once more to ensure a tense ending. Tyler Morgan crossing after some poor defending from Keys with Geraint O'Driscoll failing with the conversion attempt. Gareth David took over the kicking duties for Keys and pulled Keys clear with 10 minutes or so to go. Keys did threaten the Newport line once more but some good defending from Newport kept Keys at bay. Newport, through O'Driscoll then got 2 penalties in quick succession to level the scores. However Keys in the closing moments had their own two penalties in quick succession and two chances to secure the victory but these both fell short from Gareth David's boot and a draw was probably a fair result in the context of this entertaining fixture.
Overall Keys failed with too many kicks at goal which perhaps ultimately cost them victory although a scrappy lineout particularly in the first half did not help matters. For Keys Scott Matthews was outstanding and competition for the number 7 jersey is certainly proving to be an intriguing battle with Rob Nash. The scrummage was superb with Richard Cornock, Garry Horrigan, Craig Gould and James Johnstone perhaps ensuring nightmares for their Newport counterparts until the sides meet again in March at Rodney Parade in the Principality Premiership.
Tries: Elliot Frewen, Dafydd Rosser & Tyler Morgan
Penalties: Tom Hancock (x2) & Geraint O'Driscoll (x2)
Cross Keys Scorers:-
Tries: Dean Gunter, Aled James, Ryan James & Penalty Try
Conversions: Dean Gunter (x2)
Penalty: Gareth David