CROSS Keys are on the brink of qualifying for the Premiership playoffs for the first time after climbing into the top three thanks to victory against Bedwas.
Keys withstood a late charge by their Gwent rivals at Pandy Park to take the spoils 13-8 thanks to second half tries by wing Elliott Jones and centre Phil Williams.
It means that Greg Woods’ side could cement a playoff spot if they enjoy more derby delight against Newport on Saturday and fourth-placed Llandovery come a cropper at second-placed Carmarthen Quins.
Double-chasing Keys made 11 changes to the side that beat the Drovers in the semi-final of the Swalec Cup and it showed, they didn’t lack endeavour but understandably not everyone was on the same wavelength.
However, it was all about grinding out a win in the absence of their regulars and that’s what they did thanks to a spirited defensive stand at the death.
The visitors had the better of the opening exchanges but were not able to convert all of their hard carrying down the slope into points.
Some of the Keys’ first-up tackling was shoddy but to their credit, and with young openside Jack Perkins to the fore, they scrambled well to keep the game scoreless until Bedwas fly-half Richard Powell bisected the posts with a 19th-minute penalty.
The visitors probably felt that they were worthy of a larger advantage for their dominance of territory and possession yet it was the hosts that ended the first half on top.
Keys were given a sniff when Bedwas number eight Dan Crimmins was yellow-carded but failed to trouble the scoreboard operator, fly-half Angus O’Brien missing a penalty from in front of the sticks.
The first half was not the most fluid affair and referee Wayne Davies clearly agreed – he brought it to a conclusion after 39 minutes and 12 seconds.
The Keys management’s pep talk clearly did wonders as their charges looked much more with it after the restart and took just four minutes to inch in front.
They reaped the rewards of going for the line rather than for a drop goal while enjoying penalty advantage when O’Brien’s smart inside ball sent wing Elliott Jones racing over.
The fly-half’s conversion attempt was a shocker but he swiftly made amends with a three-pointer to make it 8-3 with half an hour remaining.
And they were a score clear approaching the hour when a clever O’Brien chip over the top caused mayhem in the Bedwas ranks, the bounce falling into the hands of Keys centre Leon Andrews and his midfield partner Phil Williams crossed in the corner from wing Nathan Williams’ pass.
At 13-3 Keys were comfortable... but that lead didn’t last long.
Bedwas, with veteran back row forward Deri Mattravers providing a shot in the arm from the bench, came firing back and replacement hooker Richard Wilkes powered over in the corner after 63 minutes to make it 13-8.
Suddenly the nerves set in for Keys and they were forced into some desperate defending as the clock slowly ticked towards 80 minutes and there was plenty of relief in the home camp when Mr Davies blew his whistle after just 30 seconds of injury time.
Cross Keys scorers: tries – E Jones (44), P Williams (58); penalty – A O’Brien (48)
Bedwas scorers: try – R Wilkes (63); penalty – R Powell (18)
Referee: Wayne Davies (WRU)
Argus star man: Jack Perkins