CROSS KEYS v NEWPORT (British and Irish Cup, tomorrow, KO 2.30)

NEWPORT forwards coach Dai Gray hopes last week’s impressive British & Irish Cup victory over Connacht Eagles will be the catalyst to their season.

The Black and Ambers badly needed that victory to kick-start their campaign after a faltering opening.

Without a competitive win at home after three defeats, making it five league losses out of seven, Newport duly delivered in front of their fans.

An entertaining 18-14 triumph against the full-time professionals from the west of Ireland could well be the start of something special for a talented squad.

“It was a good performance against Connacht and it was pleasing how things came together,” Gray said.

“I hope it is a spring board to better things. I think Connacht came over and targeted this game, they really believed they could win it.

“They were a very physical side but we kept hold of possession well and that’s the best our forwards have played all season.”

But Gray knows it won’t be easy to build on that promising win tomorrow at Pandy Park, even with Keys’ terrible injury worries.

“We are expecting a tough battle and these things come around to every team in time, because we’ve had our fair share of injury problems in previous seasons,” Gray said.

“We will go to Cross Keys confident but not over-confident because we have a lot of respect for them and they are a very good side.”

The Black and Ambers have the services of two Newport Gwent Dragons in tighthead prop Tim Ryan and highly-rated Academy and Wales Under-20s number eight Ieuan Jones.

New signing Jamie Jeune, the ex-Pontypool prop, is due to come in for Dragons’ Nathan Williams, who played loosehead against the Eagles but is on regional duty in the Amlin Challenge Cup clash with Bayonne at Rodney Parade.

“Jamie is a quality player and is chomping at the bit to play,” Gray said.

One doubt from last week’s winning matchday squad is promising young wing Ashton Hewitt who has a hamstring injury.