Report used courtesy of Geoff Champion - www.southwalesargus.co.uk
Ebbw Vale clinched their place in the Principality Premiership top eight after a dogged battle against Cross Keys with outside half Josh Lewis kicking two penalties before crossing for a late try to clinch victory, writes Geoff Champion.
Bedwas win at Cardiff had secured their place before the final whistle blew at Eugene Cross Park but the Steelmen still wanted to secure a top-half place, and the chance to defend their title, on their own merit.
This was a match for the purist where two strong packs slugged it out for the whole match but Vale looked better equipped tactically thanks to the impressive kicking by inside half Dai Jones in attack and defence.
Up front, none worked harder than Vale skipper Damien Hudd and front row trio Ross Jones, Joe Franchi and Gethin Robinson.
Keys came close to grabbing a try when flanker Tom Lampard crossed the line midway through the second half after a powerful surge but he was recalled for an earlier infringement. Lewis’s second penalty in the 77th minute was a beauty right off the half way line.
Defending champions Ebbw Vale knew this was a crunch match for them because a victory over arch rivals Cross Keys would clinch the final place in the top eight before the Principality Premiership splits for the first time into two leagues.
But if the Steelmen – desperate to continue their title defence into the second part of the season - lost and Cardiff beat Bedwas at home, then the Arms Park club would snatch the top eight spot.
Ebbw Vale’s new player coach Gareth Maule, the former Dragons, Scarlets and Bristol centre, lined up with David Langdon in midfield on his return to Eugene Cross Park in a match that was being televised by S4C.
Keys already knew they were consigned to the lower league having lost an entertaining game at Pontypridd on New Year’s Eve while Vale scraped to a narrow home win over Cardiff on the same day.
Prosser had an early opportunity to put the visitors ahead but he was off target with a 40 metres penalty attempt in the third minute. When Keys collapsed a scrummage near their posts Lewis made it 3-0 to Vale by kicking an easy 15 metres penalty goal midway through the first half. This was just reward because Vale had dominated the early exchanges thanks to the good ball-winning of their forwards and clever tactical kicking by half backs Lewis and Jones.
Keys came more into the game thanks to robust play by their pack but Vale clung on to their narrow lead at the interval. That second penalty and late try by Lewis was enough to kick start the home celebrations.
Ebbw Vale Scorer:-
Try: Josh Lewis
Penalties: Josh Lewis (x2)