Cross Keys 41 Neath 10
RECORDS tumbled again as a triumphant Cross Keys made history for the second time in three days after annihilating Neath 41-10 at Pandy Park.
Wednesday saw the Gwent Valleys side win at Swansea for the first time in 55 years.
And the weekend’s bonus- point triumph was another important milestone because Keys had never before beaten the Welsh All Blacks at home in the Premiership.
It was also the club’s record win over Neath, eclipsing the 27-point margin of last season’s 45-18 British & Irish Cup victory.
And it could and should have been even more of a beating for the woeful visitors, who are a shadow of the all-conquering side of just a few seasons ago.
That’s not to detract from Keys, though, who were the antithesis of their opponents.
Neath’s terrible indiscipline also didn’t help their cause and no fewer than four men were yellow-carded – locks Rhys Jones and Euros Evans, No 8 Gareth Gravell and replacement wing Kevin James – before openside flanker Tom Morgan was sent off in the last minute for a swinging arm.
Keys lost two players to the sin bin themselves in the first half – lock Dan Hodge and hooker Gerwyn Price, playing brilliantly once again, this time out of position at openside flanker.
Price was yellow-carded for a clothes line tackle on Neath centre Ryan Evans, who still managed to score Neath’s first try despite a classic professional foul.
Keys coasted to victory, although they were held early on, the first points not coming until the 29th minute when stylish Keys outside-half Dean Gunter sweetly struck a long-range penalty.
With Rhys Jones sin- binned for infringing at the breakdown, Gunter soon added another penalty before sharp thinking by Keys’ Elliott Jones extended their lead.
The wing stole the ball at a ruck just inside his half before sprinting up the touchline to score in the corner, Gunter’s fine conversion making it 13-0 five minutes before half-time.
Some manic play before the interval saw centre Evans hit back for the visitors with an unconverted try before his opposite number, the excellent Luke Ford, scored a converted try with the last play of the half.
His chip ahead bounced cruelly for Neath but kindly for him, gathering to touch down under the posts, and it ended with Keys 20-5 up at the break.
Neath crumbled in the second half after being softened up by the Keys eight with enforcer Hodge their main tormentor, the West Countryman superb and an absolute nightmare for the opposition to deal with.
Keys were awarded a penalty try in the 55th minute before a sparkling try by replacement centre Luke Williams gave the hosts a bonus point.
Man of the match Hodge strolled over for Keys’ fifth try before Neath sub Alun Wyn Davies pulled one back for the visitors in the dying minutes.
London Welsh assistant coach Kingsley Jones, in his leathers, riding to the game on his motorbike, was among the crowd, the former Wales captain on hand to see his promising son, Dorian Jones, come on as a replacement in the 53rd minute for centre Aled James.
Keys head coach Greg Woods was pleased with his side’s performance but believes his side haven’t got out of second gear yet this season: “It looked like men against boys and we squeezed the life out of them.
“They couldn’t handle our lineout drives and our scrum was rock solid.
“We looked good but we’re still not there. We know that and we can be scrappy but we won 41-10 at a canter.”