CROSS Keys have received a big boost after promising young outside-half Dorian Jones signed a new one-year deal with the club who look to get back to winning ways at Llanelli this weekend, writes Iwan Gabe Davies.
Head coach Greg Woods insists the Pandy Park outfit are still very much in the hunt for the Principality Premiership play-offs despite successive away defeats to Llandovery (23-16) and Aberavon (27-26).
The latter encounter was one which Keys could have won with the last kick of the game, only for a conversion to sail agonisingly wide.
Crucially though they did manage to get one losing bonus point at the Drovers before gaining two at the Talbot Athletic Ground last weekend (thanks to scoring four tries as well as finishing within seven points of the victors) in a pair of performances which greatly encouraged the coaching staff.
Their troika of tough away day assignments doesn’t get much easier when they travel to Parc y Scarlets to face a Llanelli side two points and one place ahead of them, the West Walians in fourth position, although Keys have a game in hand over them.
Taking great heart from last week’s one-point defeat to the Wizards, Woods said: “I seem to be involved in thrillers at the Talbot Athletic Ground, but, unfortunately, I find myself on the wrong end (his side lost 41-39 there last season after they’d led 34-7 at one stage).
“But I am really enthused about the intent we showed against Aberavon and we could easily have won had our defence been tighter, an aspect of our play that has so often been very good this season.
“It’s rare I take positives from a defeat, but there were so many and I thought young players like Jack Perkins (back row), Scott Andrews (lock), Luke Garrett (prop) and Elliott Jones (wing) were outstanding.
“We took a losing bonus point at Llandovery, two at Aberavon and will be looking to take more at Parc y Scarlets – we are still very much in the hunt for the play-offs.”
There is good news with centre Phil Williams and utility back Nathan Williams not having suffered the grave injuries once feared in the wake of last Saturday’s setback, the former expected to miss just a week from a blow to the head.
Full-back Rhys Jones is back after playing for the Newport Gwent Dragons in the recent 24-23 win over Glasgow Warriors and 38-8 defeat to Ulster.
Keys will be without four exciting players, the quartet of Andrews, Garrett, openside flanker Scott Matthews and outside-half Angus O’Brien feature for Wales against England in the Under-20s Six Nations.
• Max Boyce tribute band Boycezone provide pre-match and half-time entertainment at Keys’ next home match, the Premiership clash with Cardiff on Friday, March 14 (kick-off 7.15pm). They will be performing for Touch Trust, a charity helping people with learning disabilities, those affected by autistic spectrum disorder (ASD), complex needs, behaviour which challenges, and other vulnerable groups in the community.