Match Report by Iwan Davies of South Wales Argus
THIS was no Ealing comedy for Cross Keys but there was a hint of a thriller as the Gwent Valleys side emerged with a bonus point win but only after being given a real fright in London.
The Pandy Park side had secured their fourth try and a 24-5 lead early in the second half only to fritter away their advantage as the hosts staged a gutsy comeback.
But Keys built on their fine start to the British and Irish Cup with two wins from two after last week's 20-16 home victory over Moseley before taking on holders Leinster A in back-to-back encounters in December.
Had the home side’s handling and composure been a little better at times and the boot of their centre Tom Wheatcroft been more accurate (he missed all three of his side’s conversions), the visitors could have been in trouble.
But in the end it was the Cross Keys mob and not Ealing’s Lavender Hill Mob who emerged victorious as the Championship suffered their sixth competitive defeat in a row in a winless season.
The visitors’ victory was built on impressive forward power in the first half and a driving lineout the home side simply had no answer to.
Boosted by the likes of Newport Gwent Dragons outside half Steffan Jones and back row forward Ieuan Jones, Keys started well.
They were rewarded for their dominance in the 14th minute when impressive lock Tom Lampard scored the first of his three tries from a lineout, Steffan Jones nailing a difficult conversion to give the Pandy Park side a 7-0 lead.
They continued to boss the game and it wasn’t long before Ealing cracked again, Lampard again crossing after Keys’ forwards battered their way to the hosts’ try-line.
Irish referee Sean Gallagher lost patience with home team’s persistent infringing at the breakdown and sin binned their former Pontypridd and Wales Under-20s lock Ed Siggery as the game entered the second quarter.
The driving lineout was being used as a merciless potent weapon by the visitors for which Ealing simply had no answer, Ieuan Jones, playing on the blindside, crossing for their third try in the 27th minute, Steffan Jones again beautifully converting from a difficult angle.
Ealing weren’t prepared to throw in the towel and they hit back with a cute try when a fine offload by centre Ronnie McLean found Andrew Henderson who crossed in the corner for an unconverted try.Keys should have sewn up a bonus point before the interval but they butchered a glorious opportunity when a massive overlap was squandered.
The half ended with Keys fully in control, 19-5 ahead at Vallis Way against an Ealing side who had Stuart Commins as their highest profile player, the scrum half coming on as a replacement for Northampton in their defeat to Leinster in the epic 2011 Heineken Cup final at the Millennium Stadium.
Lampard got his third try to secure the five points in the 51st minute, again from a lineout.
It looked as though Ealing were about to suffer another heavy defeat in a desperate season so far, but William Robinson scored another excellent unconverted try for the hosts soon after when a fine move saw the wing finish well after Siggery punched a huge hole in the visitors’ defence.
The home side were making of a real game of it in the second half and could have put Keys under serious pressure had replacement wing Phil Chesters held on to a pass with the try-line in front of him.
But the home side got their reward with just over ten minutes to go when their number eight Sam Hocking crossed for their third try after more adventure by the plucky hosts but centre Wheatcroft again couldn’t convert it into seven points as Keys’ lead was cut to 24-15.
Ealing were dealt a hammer blow though when Siggery was sent off for his second yellow card offence.
But the hosts looked as if they would secure a losing bonus point with their fourth try only for Keys’ defence to hold firm as an entertaining second 40 minutes came to a frantic end.Ealing Trailfinders Scorers:-
Tries: Andrew Henderson, William Robinson, Sam Hocking.
Cross Keys Scorers:-
Tries: Tom Lampard (x3) & Ieuan Jones
Conversions: Steffan Jones (x2)