Holders' cup dream also up in smoke
7:06pm Sunday 17th February 2013 in Sport
HOLDERS Cross Keys must now place this disappointing cup exit at Neath behind them ahead of a key Welsh Premiership clash at Bedwas on Friday night, writes Tony Poole.
The Pandy Park side suffered dire consequences after scrum-half Rhys Dyer was sent off in the 44th for an illegal challenge on opposite number Luc Jones.
Dyer could feel miffed in seeing red, as he was a victim of the powder-keg situation that existed from the off, and although Keys made strenuous efforts to turn the tide it was six-time winners Neath who moved into the quarter-finals. The outcome was all the more surprising given eight days earlier Keys handed Neath a 35-7 league drubbing at the same venue.
With such a low turnaround period between the meetings it was inevitable that old scores hadn’t been given time to heal.
Another problematic area was touch judges Phil Fear and Simon Harris not wired to referee James Jones, as it heightened tension.
Basically, Neath cut down on a high error count that cost them any chance of beating Keys the week before.
Another factor was that the Pandy Park side probably had one eye on Bedwas this Friday in the league.
But it seldom showed, as captain Rob Nash led from the front, and brought out the best in No 8 Adam Powell, along with brothers Danny and Ollie Hodge in the boilerhouse.
“If I’m honest, I would take the five points against Neath in the league ahead of a cup win,” said Cross Keys head coach Greg Woods.
“That isn’t to say I’m not gutted in relinquishing our hold on the cup, as winning is an infectious habit.
“But I thought the binning of Danny Hodge was harsh, while the red card Rhys Dyer received was yellow at best.
“The cards aided Neath, but to blame the officials would be churlish, as James Jones is a good referee.
“Reaching the league play-offs was always our main aim, and with that in mind we must now bounce back at Bedwas.’’ On a second Gnoll appearance in eight days Keys started well with fly-half Dorian Jones atoning for a miss in landing a fifth-minute penalty.
But the Blacks then perked up, and after wing Bowdy Davies had a try ruled out for a forward pass, the ex-Llanelli man touched down in the opposite corner.
The remainder of a stop-start half – marred by scuffles both on and off the ball– was dominated by the goal- kickers.
Dean Cummins and ex-Keys man Dai Langdon both placed Neath penalties to match similar efforts from fly-half Jones.
Yellow cards were issued to Keys lock Danny Hodge and Neath prop Marc Jones, as the Blacks led 11-9 at the break.
In the 42nd minute Keys captain Nash became a yellow-card victim -– and Dyer’s red card reduced them to 13 men.
Neath scrum-half Luc Jones, son of London Welsh coach Lyn, exploited the situation to claim a try from a five-metre lineout that also went unconverted.
But Keys continued to battle, and there was hope on the hour when replacement Dean Gunter nailed a penalty for 16-12.
He then failed with a more difficult 63rd-minute chance, and the game was all up once Langdon dropped a 71st-minute goal.
It left Keys requiring two scores, as try-count favoured Neath in the event of 19-19, and although the 14 men continued to press the Blacks wound down the clock.
Neath: A Bramwell; B Davies, R Evans, D Cummins, C Morgans; D Langdon, L Jones (K James 58 mins); Roy Jones (R Davies 72), R Clancy, M Jones, Rhys Jones, J Griffiths, G Gravell (capt), S Jones, L Ward (C Jones 34-40+5, M Rees 75).
Scorers: Tries – B Davies, L Jones; drop goal: D Langdon; pens: D Cummins, D Langdon.
Cross Keys: G David (L Williams 58); K Baller, L Andrews, L Ford, N Trowbridge (R James 46); D Jones (D Gunter 58), R Dyer; R Cornock, R Miller, C Gould, O Hodge (S Higgins 68), D Hodge, T Lampard (S Matthews 72), A Powell, R Nash (capt).
Scorers: Pens – D Jones (3), D Gunter.
Referee: James Jones (Pencoed).