If ever an example of a game of 2 halves was needed then it was most definitely this one, where Cross Keys were defeated by Carmarthen Quins by 19 points to 17 at the Park.
From the start it was The Keys who enjoyed the most territory and possession and they set the stall out from the first whistle, with the brilliant early exploits of the Keys forwards laying the foundations. Keys used their possession wisely and the Quins frustrations were clear to see as they fell foul of the referee’s decisions on several occasions in the early exchanges.
After a large period of pressure deep inside the Quins’ 22 it was Keys who took the lead in the 11th minute when Keys opted to go for the jugular by choosing scrums after being awarded a number of penalties in the shadows of the Quins’ posts. That gamble paid off when following a scrum Keys set up camp on the Quins’ try line and lock Danny Hodge powered over under a pile of bodies for a try which Geraint Rhys Jones duly converted with Keys firmly on top thanks largely to their dominance at scrum time.
The Quins were reduced to 14 men after 15 minutes of play when their prop Nathan Williams, who appeared for Keys several times when he was a Dragons player a few years ago, saw yellow for a breakdown offence just inside his side’s 22. Geraint Rhys Jones kicked the resulting penalty with Keys remaining in control of proceedings.
A few minutes later Quins make their first real break in to Keys territory and they were rewarded for efforts when their outside half Dan Jones kicked his first penalty of the day with 17 minutes on the clock. From the restart Keys put the home side under huge pressure once more and when tempers flared close to the Quins line, as Keys piled on the pressure the home side were reduced to 13 men when hooker Torin Myhill was sent to the sin bin following a bout of fisticuffs after 22 minutes of play.
It seemed almost inevitable at this stage that Keys would make their 2 man advantage tell when they went close to crossing from the resulting penalty. Keys had to wait just a minute longer to cross the line again when Ieuan Jones was this time in control of a big drive forward and he crossed for his second try in as many games as the game approached 25 minutes of play. Rhys Jones again added the extras.
The Quins were probably relieved that they finally began to play some rugby in Keys territory such had been Keys early dominance. A series of penalties conceded close to their own line saw Keys under huge pressure themselves and 5 minutes from half time referee Dewi Phillips lost patience and bizarrely sent Keys centre Leon Andrews, who was some 25 yards in field away from play to the sin bin for an off side offence as Quins were continuing to go close to crossing. From the resulting penalty, which was awarded right in front of the posts, and nowhere near where the action actually was, Dan Jones added his second penalty of the day to reduce the deficit with half time approaching.
Just as the first half had been all about Keys it was all about Quins in the second half as they dominated proceedings throughout the second 40 minutes. Keys made some vital substitutions early in the second half and this appeared to have some bearing on the pattern of the play for the remainder of the game. Although it must be said that Quins looked like a different outfit after the interval.
No sooner had Keys been restored to 15 men than they were a man down less than 5 minutes later when skipper Scott Matthews was yellow carded after he was judged as the cause for a rolling maul to be brought down close to the Keys’ line. Quins made their advantage show immediately and the ball was moved infield from the touchline and winger Tom Williams, son of Brynmor was in field to cross for his sides first try of the day, from close range with just shy of 50 minutes played. Dan Jones initially missed his first conversion attempt but was allowed a retake as Keys were adjudged by referee Phillips to have charged to soon. Jones duly added the extras with his second attempt to close the gap to within a try of Keys, at 17 -13.
Keys were simply not able to get any platform as Quins were now dominating at the set-piece as well as almost winning everything at the breakdown to put Keys under the cosh time and time again. With a little under 15 minutes remaining and with Keys still under huge pressure despite now being back to their full complement, Quins Dan Jones reduced the Keys lead to a single point with his 3rd penalty of the game, at this stage it looked as though Keys would have to work incredibly hard to grab anything from the game, such was Quins confidence.
For the closing 5 minutes Keys set about keeping tight and keeping the ball around the halfway line, although this was always going to be tough task. Sure enough Quins eventually won the ball and almost crossed for a try in the corner but Keys conceded a throw close to their own line. Quins secured possession from their own lineout and when the play moved in field to in front of the posts, replacement outside half Steffan Marshall sat himself back in the pocket and when the time was right he coolly slotted over a drop goal that looked to have won the game for the home side as the game entered stoppage time.
There was still time for Keys to recycle the ball from the restart and try to patiently build field position with a first real attack of the second half. Quins’ defence was well disciplined however and they forced Keys into a long range drop goal attempt of their own from the boot of Josh Prosser but in truth Keys were too far out and the attempt was charged down and Quins almost broke up field to cross for a second try but Prosser reacted well and covered well to kick the ball dead and with it went Keys chances of what looked like an unlikely victory given Quins dominance in the second half.
Overall Keys can reflect on letting another decent lead slip, just as they did at Bridgend on the second day of the season but can perhaps feel quite relieved that they were able to get a losing bonus point which may prove crucial when it comes to the mid-season split.
Carmarthen Quins Scorers:-
Try: Tom Williams
Conversion: Dan Jones
Penalties: Dan Jones (x3)
Drop Goal: Steffan Marshall
Cross Keys Scorers:-
Tries: Danny Hodge & Ieuan Jones
Conversions: Geraint Rhys Jones (x2)
Penalty: Geraint Rhys Jones