CROSS KEYS 20 NEWPORT 24
NEWPORT avenged Keys’ double over them last season in an entertaining British & Irish Cup Gwent derby that went right down to the wire.
The Black and Ambers raced into a 15-3 lead early in the second quarter, only for the hosts to claw their way back into the game.
The visitors were up after just four minutes thanks to a bizarre try.
Awarded a free kick in their own half, Newport outside-half Scott Sneddon was charged by Keys players without having tapped the ball.
He passed it along the line before outstanding full back James Leadbeater tore through the Keys defence.
When he was tackled short of the line, captain Craig Attwell, like all good opensides, was on his shoulder to take the pass and crash over in the corner.
It was a superb try but tackling seemed only optional for many in the Keys side.
And it wasn’t long before Newport were further ahead when English referee Ross Campbell awarded them a penalty try for their early dominance in the scrum.
The Keys pack was under serious pressure and after two scrum fives collapsed, the official lost his patience and Sneddon slotted over the conversion to make it 12-0 after 12 minutes.
It looked at this stage as though the home side, with many key players either injured or suspended, would only be trying to keep down a cricket score with Newport looking rampant.
But they never lacked courage and determination and fly-half Dorian Jones’ penalty gave them hope, only for a fine monster attempt by Sneddon to wipe it out after 22 minutes.
Jones was on target again with another well-struck penalty after half an hour before Keys turned the tables on Newport.
After the home side had battered their opponents’ try line, Black and Ambers lock Rhodri Jones was sin-binned just before the interval.
Pressing home their advantage in the scrum, it was Keys who were awarded a penalty try this time, Jones converting to pull them back to within two points of Newport at half-time, the score 15-13.
Former Keys man Sneddon, having a fine game, kicked his second penalty early in the second half before it was the hosts’ turn to show a little magic seconds later in the 48th minute.
Their full back Gareth David’s chip found promising young wing Elliott Jones, who finished in style by rounding the defence to touch down in the corner.
Jones’ wonderful touchline conversion gave the home side the lead for the first and only time in the game.
Although the pendulum seemed to have swung in Keys’ favour, it was Newport who finished on top, victory secured by two more penalties courtesy of Sneddon, who ended the game with 14 points.
Keys did launch a late attack but a determined Newport hung on for a victory they probably just about deserved.
For the Black and Ambers it’s two wins from two in the competition, while last season’s finalists Keys are still looking for their first victory.
Newport head coach Sven Cronk was delighted with the win and praised his pack in particular who won every lineout on their throw, as well as pinching a few from Keys, and looked fairly solid for most of the afternoon.
“It was a pleasing win – this has been a difficult place for us to come,” he said.
“We are building and we always back ourselves. We’ve got a good honest group and the set piece was very good – Dai Gray (forwards coach) does a lot of work and it pays off.”
Keys head coach Greg Woods felt the better side won.
“They thoroughly deserved their win really – they started far better than we did,” he said. “We started really poorly and although we did get back into it, we failed to kick on when we took the lead and our discipline let us down.”
Cross Keys: G David, E Jones, N Williams, G Price, N Trowbridge (J Lewis 68), D Jones (D Gunter 62), R James (capt), A Lott, G Horrigan, C Gould (M Jones 49), D Hodge, O Hodge, R Peebles (T Lampard 58), N Cudd, A Powell. Replacements: J Johnstone, S Matthews, R Dyer.
Scorers: Tries – penalty, Elliott Jones, conversions – Dorian Jones (2), penalties – D Jones (2).
Newport: J Leadbeater, E Frewen, G O’Driscoll, W Richards, A Awcock, S Sneddon, A Quick (R Downes 64), J Jeune, A Brown, T Ryan, R Jones (L Randall 44, S Waldron 74), A Frampton, I Jones, C Attwell (capt), R Coombs. Replacements: D Rogers, D Matthews, W Hodnett, T Hancock. R Downes.
Scorers: Tries – Craig Attwell, penalty, conversion – Scott Sneddon, penalties – S Sneddon (4).
Referee: Ross Campbell (RFU) Argus star man: James Leadbeater.