CROSS Keys’ director of rugby Jonathan Westwood believes his side are still in the hunt for the Principality Premiership play-offs but admits his side have probably let the prospect of home advantage slip in their quest for a top three finish.
He was speaking after his men went down to a bonus point defeat at home in a low-scoring, tense and enthralling showdown with Carmarthen Quins at Pandy Park in a quagmire after heavy rain.
It was a blow to Keys’ ambitions after the West Walians moved up to second in the table behind Pontypridd, while Keys stay in fourth.
But they were lucky Llandovery slipped up at home, drawing with improving Aberavon to slip down to third while Llanelli upped the ante on the front runners with a victory away at Cardiff.
The top second and third teams at the end of the season will face each other before facing the top side, likely to be Pontypridd, in the final.
Keys will rue the fact they didn’t put the game to bed after dominating the first half.
All they had to show for their monopoly of possession and territory in the opening 40 minutes was a penalty from their playmaker outside-half Dorian Jones.
It was he and Steffan Jones, on duty from the regional set-up Newport Gwent Dragons, at full-back who had kept the visitors pinged back in their own backyard thanks to clever territorial kicking.
But a heroic defensive effort by Quins kept them at bay.
Quins improved in the second half and it was an error by Dorian Jones which allowed them to score a fortuitous try in the 62nd minute when centre Rhys Williams crossed, his try marvellously converted by stand-off Craig Evans.
The extras meant Keys had to get a try to overturn the four-point advantage and Quins’ excellent rearguard was more than equal to the task.
The battle was lost but the war is far from over.
As the crestfallen Keys trooped off the field, Westwood summed up the mood: “We are very disappointed but it was a game which saw two committed sides really go at each other in atrocious conditions.
“The outcome was always likely to be decided by one or two errors, and so it proved.
“We are not out of making the play-offs but we have to win all of our remaining games.
“What is probably certain though is that we are likely to have lost the opportunity of securing a semi-final with home advantage.”
On Saturday Keys have their last four showdown with Llandovery at the Gnoll in the Swalec Cup.
After that, they have three games left in the league.
They face Bedwas and Newport at home before travelling to Bridgend.
Cross Keys: Steffan Jones, Nathan Williams, Leon Andrews (capt), Aled James, James Cordy-Redden, Dorian Jones, Owen Jones, Richard Cornock, Darren Hughes, Anthony Lott (Craig Gould75), Danny Hodge, Ollie Hodge (Scott Andrews 66), Adam Powell (Reuben Tucker 66), Scott Matthews, Ieuan Jones.
Replacements: Luke Garrett, Henry Palmer, Angus O'Brien, Phil Williams, Ryan Lee.
Scorer: Penalty – Dorian Jones Carmarthen Quins: Howard Thomas, Jason Harries (Rhys Thomas 47), Morgan Griffiths, Rhys Williams, Chris Banfield, Craig Evans, Rhodri Wells (Kieran Hardy 30), Rob Evans, Rhodri Clancy (Ryan Elias 65), Ian Jones (capt), Luke Joseph, Carwyn Jones, Will Boyde, Rory Gallagher, Sion Bennett.
Replacements: Gareth Thomas, Javan Sebastian, Aidan Laxton, Lee Williams, Gavin Thomas, Rhys Thomas.
Scorers: Try – Rhys Williams, Conversion – Craig Evans Referee: Gwyn Morris (WRU)