Cross Keys will once again represent the Dragons' region of Gwent in this season's British and Irish Cup after they comfortably defeated Newport in the final play off at Pandy Park last Saturday.
The game started in somewhat typical Gwent derby fashion and the fact that both sides were reduced to 14 men in the 5th minute perhaps says all you need to know about the opening moments. Opposite numbers Keys' Danny Hodge and Newport's Adam Brown paid the price for the ill-disciplined start when they were sent to the sin bin for their involvement in at least the third scrap of the opening 5 minutes.
The sight of the two second rows watching on from the sin bin seemed to calm both sides and a game of rugby actually began to take place. Keys undoubtably settled quicker and they were ahead in the 10th minute when Angus O'Brien kicked a penalty goal. Just 5 minutes after this Keys went further ahead when wing Nathan Trowbridge found himself in field and grabbed the opening try of the game when he benefited from a neat inside pass from Angus O'Brien and Trowbridge did the rest to finish well near the posts. Angus O'Brien added the straight forward extras and Keys were well in control.
The second try was superbly worked when following a break up the middle of the park the ball was worked out to the outstanding Scott Matthews who, instead of using the two men outside him kicked the ball through brilliantly and his kick was chased by Angus O'Brien who gathered the lose ball and scored under the posts, O'Brien kicked the conversion of his own try and in the 25th minute Keys were well ahead and were enjoying themselves.
Just moments after that, O'Brien created another try. Unfortunately for Keys it was Matt O'Brien not Angus who created the try. Older brother Matt, wearing 10 for Newport, kicked through and and the ball bounced up over the head of the last Keys defender and Newport full back Geraint O'Driscoll gathered the ball to score under the posts. O'Driscoll converting his own try.
After half an hour Angus O'Brien kicked his second penalty of the game and Keys were once more looking in control. That control was short lived when the black and ambers grabbed an opportunist try against the run of play as half time approached. Centre Dan Robinson his gathered up a lose ball to cross for a try that went unconverted but certainly kept the visitors in touch despite Keys dominating the opening 40 minutes.
Half time score Cross Keys 20 Newport 12
In the second half Newport's ill-discipline proved costly and when hooker Will Evans was sent to the sin bin just over 5 minutes in to the half Keys took full advantage and crossed for their third try thanks to the power of number 8 Adam Powell who crossed for an excellent try which was not converted after 48 minutes.
The visitors had very little answer to Keys continued dominance and they were soon down to 13 men when replacement scrum half Andrew Quick was sin-binned just moments after coming on for dangerous use of the boot at a ruck.
Angus O'Brien added two fine long range penalties in quick succession as the game approached the hour mark to push Keys futher ahead and all but guarantee Keys passage in to the British and Irish Cup as Newport seemed to lack any cutting edge to get themselves back in to contention.
The Black and Ambers did go in search of what would probably have been no more than a consolation score as the game entered the final moments but it wasn't to be as Keys exceptional defence stood firm and kept the visitors out.
Overall an excellent victory and a definite improved performance from the Ebbw Vale game the weekend before and all bodes well for the coming season. Keys can now look forward to fixtures against Cornish Pirates, Doncaster Knights and Bedford Blues, who can call upon the services of a certain outside half by the name of Steffan Jones.
Cross Keys Scorers:-
Tries: Nathan Trowbridge, Angus O'Brien & Adam Powell
Conversions: Angus O'Brien (x2)
Penalties: Angus O'Brien (x4)
Tries: Geraint O'Driscoll & Adam Robinson
Conversion: Geraint O'Driscoll
Keys Man of the Match: Ryan James