HIGH flying Cross Keys travel to Neath this weekend determined to avenge last season’s numbing Swalec Cup defeat at the Gnoll, writes Iwan Gabe Davies.
The 2012 cup winners men stumbled at the opening hurdle to the Welsh All Blacks in last season’s first round despite being favourites to win.
Neath went on to make the 2013 final at the Millennium Stadium where they were defeated by Pontypridd after beating Keys 19-12 at home last February.
Fate brings the two together again for a carbon copy clash which again will have the bookies favouring an away win.
Keys have enjoyed a highly promising season so far with six wins from their last six Principality Premiership games while Neath have been struggling.
That said, the famous club are on the up, winning back-to-back encounters after waiting until the end of December to get their first competitive triumph of this campaign.
It seems the return of popular former Ebbw Vale boss Patrick Horgan as Neath head coach in the middle of last month has worked wonders.
But his opposite number Greg Woods is focussed on ending the ex-Wales Under-20s coach’s 100 per cent record since picking up the reins again.
And the Keys chief revealed how losing to Neath and being prevented from emulating their sensational 32-19 Swalec Cup final glory against Pontypridd two years ago still hurts.
“It’s one of those games that I think about a lot,” Woods said. “One of those two or three matches that have really stuck in my mind.
“They spoiled our game and they slowed down the ball. Neath are always a tough side to play against and they really dug out a win against us that day.”
Woods added: “It was bitterly disappointing to get knocked out in the first round and we are expecting a difficult encounter but determined not to go down to them again this year.
“They will be boosted by the return of Pat Horgan with his rugby intelligence and knowledge and they also have some top players in Gareth Gravell and Lee Evans.”
Keys are boosted by the return from injury of scrum-half Rhys Dyer and utility back, Wales Sevens player Rhys Jones.
There is very bad news though with influential captain and centre Leon Andrews facing the possibility of missing the rest of the season after dislocating his elbow in last month’s 15-5 league win at home over Aberavon.
The outstanding number eight Adam Powell takes over as skipper in his absence.