Cross Keys put their disappointing start to the season behind them as they took their frustrations out on visitors Neath at Pandy Park on Saturday afternoon with a resounding victory which secured their first points of the season.
From the start Keys seemed to always be in control of proceedings although it took almost 15 minutes for Keys to register the first points of the afternoon when outside half Geraint Rhys Jones struck a superb penalty from in front of the posts, just a couple of yards inside the Neath half. The lead was extended just 5 minutes later when Jones opened up a huge gap in the Neath defence before offloading perfectly with a loop pass to the supporting full back Josh Prosser who did the rest to score under the posts. Jones added the conversion as Keys led by 10 points to 0 with 20 minutes played.
Neath were on the board themselves after 30 minutes of play when full back Ed Howley landed a monster penalty of his own from the halfway line to keep the Welsh All Blacks in touch. With just 5 minutes of the half remaining, Keys pulled further ahead and stayed well in control of matters when they produced a string of close range drives in front of the posts with skipper Scott Matthews and scrum half James Leadbeater both initially being held short of the line. The ball was worked in to the arms of hooker Darren Hughes close to the posts and he powered over for a try from close range taking several would be tacklers over the line with him. Jones added his second conversion and Keys were full value for their half time lead.
Half time score: Cross Keys 17 Neath 3
The writing appeared to be on the wall for the visitors early in the second half and with Keys firmly bossing proceedings Geraint Rhys Jones extended Keys’ lead with his second penalty, 3 minutes in to the second half. Despite Neath making wholesale changes early in the half to try and change their luck Keys remained in control as a first win of the season looked almost inevitable.
Keys crossed for their third try of the game with 55 minutes played when a quick piece of thinking from skipper Scott Matthews saw him cross for the first of his tries. Keys were awarded a penalty on the 5 metre line straight in front of the Neath posts after a long period of pressure, and Matthews took a quick tap and eased his way over the line as Neath switched off from the penalty. Jones again added a relatively straight forward conversion.
Neath arguably enjoyed their best spell of the match following Matthews’ try but despite enjoying a large amount of possession they were unable to penetrate Keys’ defensive line as play remained in the middle third of the pitch. As Neath attempted to put some width to their play as they headed toward the Keys’ 22 a long lose pass was read superbly by Keys wing Mathew Powell who intercepted the pass and raced home from some 70 metres out to score Keys’ bonus point try under the posts with a little under 15 minutes left on the clock. As Geraint Rhys Jones lined up the conversion, which was again successful, Neath were out on their feet and their dejection was clear to see.
It took just 4 minutes for Keys to cross again when a brilliant break from around the halfway line by replacement Nathan Williams saw him break through a number of attempted tackles to come close to crossing for what would have been a superb individual effort but he was eventually stopped and he had Leon Andrews in support and he broke through the last ditch tackle attempts to score Keys 5th try, again under the posts. Jones added his 5th conversion to maintain his 100% kicking record.
Just a few minutes from the end and Keys launched another attack and both Josh Skinner and Jacob Unwin both went close to crossing in front of the scoreboard but a pass back inside from Unwin as he almost scored in the corner, found the excellent skipper Scott Matthews who burrowed over to score his 2nd and Keys 6th try of the game. Jones added the somewhat trickier conversion to give Keys a superb, morale boosting victory over the Welsh All Blacks.
Cross Keys Scorers:-
Tries: Scott Matthews (x2), Josh Prosser, Darren Hughes, Mathew Powell & Leon Andrews.
Conversions: Geraint Rhys Jones (x6)
Penalties: Geraint Rhys Jones (x2)
Penalty: Ed Howley
Keys Man of the Match: Geraint Rhys Jones