Cross Keys can rue ill-discipline as the main reason that they are not
to make a second successive trip to the Millennium Stadium this season
as Neath ran out deserved winners to claim a place in the quarter finals
of this season's Swalec Cup.
The Keys started the game confident of going through and few would have bet against that going by last week's terrific victory against Neath at the same venue in the league.
The opening exchanges were tense to say the least with neither side able to get a grip on the game. But it was Keys who opened the scoring with Dorian Jones slotting over a penalty goal inside the opening 5 minutes for the holders.
Neath soon responded though with an unconverted try by winger Bowdy Davies who crossed easily after good build up play by the Welsh All Blacks together with some poor defending by Keys. Shortly after this Dorian Jones added his second penalty to edge Keys back in front.
As Keys began to get frustrated with a number of opportunities going begging discipline appeared to drop and no-nonsense ref James Jones made it clear who was in charge after a number of basically pointless scraps. Then a sight almost as common as seeing a set of posts at either end of the pitch during a rugby game, Keys' Danny Hodge was sent to the sin bin this time for foul play as Neath marked a ball on their own try line.
Neath were starting to build in confidence and reclaimed the lead themselves with a penalty kick by centre Dean Cummins. Then another needless punch up resulted in Neath's former Keys prop Marc Jones joining his former team mate Hodge in the bin although many were surprised that his skipper Gareth Gravell did not join him after swinging several punches in Tom Lampard's direction.
What could have been a cup classic was soon becoming a bit of a farce with neither team now able to string anything meaningful together. Dorian Jones added his third penalty for Keys with Neath down to 14. On the stroke of half time Neath got themselves back in front with Cummins' second penalty of the afternoon.
Half time score: Neath 11 Cross Keys 9
It took just 5 minutes of the second half to see that indiscipline return to Keys ranks this time the card colour shown was red and it was shown to Rhys Dyer who was sent off because of a tackle infringement on his opposite number Luc Jones. Dyer had not even made it back to the bench when Luc Jones had the final laugh when he crossed 2 minutes after the red card for a further unconverted try.
As if the task in hand was not already hard enough Keys had skipper Rob Nash sin-binned shortly after although this appeared to be slightly harsh as Nash seemed to be being held in a choke hold off the ball yet was the only player to make that walk to the bin.
From here on in it looked as though there would only be one winner as Keys heads had dropped and confidence was high for the Welsh all blacks. Keys 13 man defence was doing quite well considering and Neath themselves were showing signs of frustration as opportunities went begging.
Dean Gunter, a replacement for Dorian Jones then kicked Keys to within a try of their hosts with a long range penalty as both sides finally began to focus on rugby rather than scraps and it showed what could of happened in the opening hour or so.
With just over 5 minutes to go former Keys pivot Dai Langdon kicked a drop goal for the hosts which meant Keys would need two scores if they were to progress. The final 5 minutes saw Keys batter away at the Neath line but the efforts were in vain and Neath deservedly take the spoils and saw champions Keys bow out, thanks largely to playing at least half of the game with 14 men or less, which always means a difficult task.
Tries: Bowdy Davies & Luc Jones
Penalties: Dean Cummins (x2)
Drop Goal: Dai Langdon
Cross Keys Scorers:-
Penalties: Dorian Jones (x3) & Dean Gunter (x1)