Cross Keys were put to the sword by a dominant Merthyr side in the 2016/2017 season opener at a sodden Pandy Park last Saturday.
With the dour, wet conditions putting pay to any chance of an expansive, running game being likely to take place, it was the Ironmen, on their Premiership debut who deserve all the plaudits for controlling the game much better than Keys from start to finish.
Despite Merthyr settling quicker it was in fact Keys who opened the scoring after 10 minutes when Ethan Davies neatly slotted over a penalty after a Merthyr offence during a ruck. From here Merthyr handled things well whereas Keys struggled for any meaningful possession throughout.
Such was the big spending Ironmen’s confidence they opted to kick to the corner from a penalty, when a shot at goal to level the scores would perhaps have been the safer bet. The kick to the corner paid off for the visitors and their driving lineout proved unstoppable after they secured possession. Hooker Rhys Williams, formally of the Blues emerged from a pile of bodies to score his side’s first points in the Principality Premiership. Centre Matthew Jarvis was wide with his conversion attempt with just under 30 minutes on the clock.
Keys did enjoy probably their best period of the game for the next 5 minutes and when Merthyr’s former Wales number 8 Andy Powell was sent to the sin bin for a high tackle on the halfway line it looked as though Keys had the opportunity to make their comeback. However with possession once again proving difficult for Keys it was the Ironmen who again took control of matters. With 2 minutes of the half remaining, and with Powell still in the sin bin it was Merthyr who furthered their lead when Matthew Jarvis kicked a penalty.
No sooner were the Ironmen back to their full complement of players than they extended their lead once more, when on the stroke of half time they crossed for a second try after another driving maul set up good field position, in front of the boys club and openside Osian Davies this time emerged with the ball with Keys surrendering all too easily under pressure. Centre Jarvis this time was on target with the extras to give his side a commanding lead at the break.
Half Time Score Cross Keys 3 Merthyr 15
The second half saw conditions get even worse, although it must be said the pitch stood up superbly despite the downpours.
With weather conditions meaning that handling errors were occurring all too frequently, particularly for Keys the result looked inevitable even though there was plenty of time left on the clock. Keys were pushed further backwards just 10 minutes in to the second half when Matthew Jarvis added his second penalty of the game when he judged the wind perfectly to slot a penalty from just outside the 22.
Chances were few and far between and despite Keys unloading their bench to try and make inroads in to the Ironmen’s defensive line, the visitors stayed strong and were not going to have their big day in the spotlight spoiled.
On this showing there is plenty to work on for Keys whereas Merthyr showed why they may well be considered amongst the favourites for the Principality Premiership title come the end of this campaign.
Cross Keys Scorer:-
Penalty: Ethan Davies
Tries: Rhys Williams & Osian Davies
Conversion: Matthew Jarvis
Penalties: Matthew Jarvis (x2)