CROSS Keys head coach Greg Woods believes his side are in for a tough test when they head to Newport for their clash with the Black and Ambers.
Keys go into the showdown in great form after securing six successive Principality Premiership victories but know their Gwent rivals will be difficult to crack.
Sven Cronk’s Newport bounced back well on the weekend after two disappointing defeats at home with a gutsy 17-10 victory away over Bedwas.
The Black and Ambers have been ravaged by injuries in recent weeks and they had to play scrum-half Andrew Quick on the wing at the Bridge Field.
Back row forward and captain Lee Beach was missing because of an Achilles injury while the club will have to cope without star wing Elliot Frewen for most of the season after he broke his ankle in the 21-11 defeat to Cardiff a fortnight ago.
Keys geared up for Newport with a hard-earned 15-5 victory over struggling Aberavon at home, the Wizards making life difficult for the hosts at Pandy Park.
Their triumph, which moved them up to third in the league, came at a heavy price however with centre and captain Leon Andrews suffering a dislocated elbow.
Speaking about facing eighth placed Newport, the city side’s crucial win over Bedwas putting more distance between them and the threat of relegation, Woods said: “It’s always tough going to Rodney Parade and we are expecting a difficult encounter.
“But we go there with our aim of finishing 2013 in second place in the table within our grasp and it is a fixture we think we can win.”
Speaking about the triumph over the Wizards, Keys kept scoreless in a second half dominated by the visitors, Woods added: “I always thought it was going to be a tricky fixture for us because they were really up for it and it has given us a lot to work on.
“I thought our defence was outstanding, Dorian Jones controlled things well at outside-half and again we managed to keep a side to under ten points.”
Keys have worries at scrum-half with Ryan James and Rhys Dyer both injured.
They had to call on veteran Owen Jones against Aberavon, the Fleur-de-Lys player coach coming back to play at inside-half for his former club after utility back Kristian Baller was unable to play due to illness.
Woods paid tribute to 34-year-old Jones who won the Swalec Cup with Keys in 2012.
“Owen is club legend and I thought he was excellent against Aberavon,” he said.
“I think playing for us again has made his Christmas.”