Cross Keys narrowly overcame an Ebbw Vale side who were keen to impress on their return to the big time. The Keys victory means they claim their place in the final Gwent play off for a place in this season's British and Irish Cup.
It was a fairly open first 10 minutes or so with both sides trying to make the early breakthrough and it was Keys who had the opportunity to break the deadlock but a penalty attempt by Dorian Jones went wide in the 5th minute. Keys appeared to be giving away too many penalties and as a result The Steelmen took the lead in the 12th minute with a penalty by fly half Iain Smerdon. Keys Ill-discipline, with needless penalties continuing to be given away was preventing the home side from creating any meaningful opportunities and was giving Ebbw the sort field position that was needed to create chances.
After one too many warnings from referee Neil Hennessy Keys skipper Adam Powell paid the price and was sent to the sin bin after just under half an hour of play.
The Steelmen took full advantage of having the extra man when a lose clearance kick from Keys was gathered by Vale winger Wes Cunliffe who set off on a run across the field toward the opposite flank and his finely timed pass to his fellow wing Owen Williams saw the former Pontypridd winger cross for the games opening try after just over 30 minutes. Iain Smerdon added the extras and Vale were in control.
Crucially a pair of penalties by Dorian Jones as half time approached kept The Keys, now back up to 15 men in touch at the break despite not having the best of the opening half.
Half time score Cross Keys 6 Ebbw Vale 10
Keys started the second half in fine fashion and just 5 minutes in to the half were ahead for the first time in the match when full back James Cordy-Redden powered his way over for a well worked try after an initial break by Nathan Williams resulted in Cordy-Redden handing off the attempted tackles to crash over the line. Dorian Jones kicked the conversion to extend Keys' narrow lead.
Keys confidence continued to grow and that together with improved discipline meant Keys were gradually taking hold of proceedings. After 54 minutes of play Keys went further ahead when Dorian Jones kicked his third penalty of the game to put Keys 16-10 ahead.
The game became increasingly edgy as it entered the final quarter with little to choose between the sides. Dorian Jones failed with a penalty attempt to put his side more than a converted score clear with just 20 minutes remaining and Ebbw were back in it with 14 minutes left when Iain Smerdon kicked a penalty.
With 10 minutes remaining a frankly bizarre scenario occurred, resulting in a NATO style summit on the field amongst the match officials. It started when a threatening chip and chase run by Dorian Jones was impeded by Ebbw's Gethin Robinson close to the Ebbw try line, Robinson subsequently saw yellow as a result and he was sent to the sin bin alongside his fellow front row man, hooker Matt Williams for a separate offence. Keys kicked to the corner from the resulting penalty and then won another penalty from the lineout. This time Keys opted for a scrum on the 5 metre line, presumably with the aim of driving the 6 man pack back over their own tryline. A scrum would force the Steelmen into a change to bring on their remaining front row replacements in place of two other members of the pack. Despite both the replacement prop and hooker all but entering the field of play from the bench, the scrum for some reason went passive on the order of the referee to some confused on lookers from both sides. The resulting passive scrum predictively ended in nothing and the game petered out in to nothing after a somewhat controversial decision from the man in the middle who appeared to go against the advice of at least one of his assistants.
Cross Keys Scorers:-
Try: James Cordy-Redden
Conversion: Dorian Jones
Penalties: Dorian Jones (x3)
Ebbw Vale Scorers:-
Try: Owen Williams
Conversion: Iain Smerdon
Penalties: Iain Smerdon (x2)
Keys man of the match: Scott Matthews