CROSS KEYS 28 LLANELLI 24
CROSS Keys swapped places with Llanelli as they moved up two places in the Premiership to third while the visitors slumped down the table to fifth.
The Pandy Park side were excellent value for their comprehensive win – the scoreline outrageously flattering the West Walians.
But Keys will be kicking themselves as they didn’t press home their advantage by scoring a bonus- point try, having to settle for four points instead of the five that were probably there for the taking.
And they will also be bitterly disappointed that they allowed Llanelli a losing bonus point after entering the last ten minutes cruising with a 28-12 lead.
That wasn’t entirely their fault because the Parc y Scarlets side can thank Greg Morgan for allowing the first of Nathan Hart’s two tries, which came after the referee missed a shocking knock-on by the visitors.
Keys dominated the match, the visitors unable to live with the Gwent side’s outstanding set piece in both scrum and lineout.
And despite a huge penalty count against them – 19-7 – Llanelli lost no men to the sin bin while the hosts had no fewer than three players punished by yellow cards.
Loosehead prop Richard Cornock and second row Dan Hodge were both incredibly, and harshly, sent from the field in separate incidents in the same minute – the 43rd – for slowing the ball down at the breakdown.
Many must have thought that their double sin-binning would turn the game at that point but Keys knuckled down and kept their 21-12 lead intact.
And replacement openside flanker Scott Matthews received yellow just two minutes from the end of the game when he was punished for a similar offence at a ruck.
This did have an impact as Llanelli got their losing bonus point as a result of Hart’s second try in the 79th minute and also ensured a very fraught last 60 seconds for Keys.
These discrepancies in yellow cards were hard to fathom.
Keys dominated the match from the off and their man of the match was workaholic blindside flanker Tom Lampard, who can be as influential for his side as his namesake, Frank, is at Chelsea.
The home team were 5-0 up in as many minutes after full back Steffan Jones, ignored by the Newport Gwent Dragons for their weekend trip to Galway, exploited a loose Llanelli kick.
He fed Nathan Williams, playing on the wing, who finished well in the corner.
Llanelli’s outside-half Owen Williams had a fine day with the boot and his first penalty reduced the arrears before opposite number Dorian Jones, watched by his father, former Wales captain Kingsley Jones, cancelled it out with a shot at goal.
The pair traded further penalties before Keys wing Nathan Trowbridge edged his side further ahead with a 33rd-minute converted try after Llanelli failed miserably to deal with a cross kick by Dorian Jones off the back of a rock-solid scrum.
Williams again kept Llanelli in the game with his third penalty before Dorian Jones’ cute drop goal gave Keys a 21-9 lead on the stroke of half-time.
But conceding a silly offside penalty seconds before the interval allowed Williams to chip away at their lead with his fourth penalty.
Keys coped exceptionally after being reduced to 13 men when they lost Cornock and Hodge to the sin bin, but it came at a cost because they tired badly in the closing stages.
The hosts, however, effectively ended the match as a contest in the 59th minute when their excellent scrum put the squeeze on Llanelli, the visitors conceding a penalty try, Steffan Jones’ conversion making it 28-12.
They went in search of try number four but without much conviction.
After the game Keys head coach Greg Woods was delighted with his side’s performance, but admitted the yellow cards against his men were ultimately still quite costly, even if they didn’t change the outcome.
“I am very pleased with the way we played and the outstanding platform we built – our scrum and lineout were excellent,” he said.
“Conceding those two yellow cards just after half-time meant we had to work over-time – boys like Lampard ran themselves to a standstill.
“We were disappointed we didn’t get a bonus- point win but you can’t go chasing one against a top side like Llanelli.”
Woods added: “We didn’t help ourselves with some of our kicking which we should have been getting off the field. But overall it was very pleasing, especially how we coped when we were down to 13 men.”
Cross Keys: S Jones, N Williams, L Andrews, W Owen (R James 65), N Trowbridge, D Jones (G David 56), R Dyer, R Cornock, G Price, C Gould (R Cornock 76), D Hodge, O Hodge, T Lampard (S Matthews 67), R Nash (capt, N Williams 53), A Powell.
Replacements: J Johnstone, G Horrigan, A Lott, S Higgins.
Scorers: Tries – Nathan Williams, Nathan Trowbridge, Penalty, Conversions – Dorian Jones, Steffan Jones, Penalties – D Jones (2), Drop goal – D Jones.
Llanelli: D Bird, D Ford, N Reynolds, J Lewis, O Williams, A Davies, S Hopkins, C Hawkins (capt), A Hopkins, J Ball, J Galley, L Rawlins, D Eager, S Leach.
Replacements: T Sloan, G George, J Kaijaks, N White, N Hart, R Jones, C Keenan, K Evans.
Scorers: Tries – Nathan Hart (2), Conversion – Jonny Lewis, Penalties – Owen Williams (4).
Referee: Greg Morgan (WRU)