Greg Woods gutted as Cross Keys’ play-off hopes dashed at the death – Cardiff 24 Cross Keys 21
CROSS Keys head coach Greg Woods believes his side’s play- off hopes have probably gone up in smoke after a heart-breaking and controversial last- minute defeat in the Welsh capital.
Cardiff wing Jamie Davies was their tormentor-in-chief but it is debatable as to whether his hat- trick try should have been allowed to materialise.
When Keys full back Gareth David kicked the ball into touch more or less straight out his own 22, the stadium clock, which was being halted every time a stoppage took place, showed the match’s 80 minutes were up.
Despite the protestations of the visiting team, referee Sean Brickell, more Barry White than Chris White, allowed play to continue.
Ex-Keys man Davies’ touchdown had shades of Kurtley Beale devastating Wales with his try in the dying seconds of Australia’s victory in December just next door at the Millennium Stadium. Had the visitors won at Cardiff Arms Park, it would have put them 11 points clear of the rest of the pack, who are chasing a top- three finish.
Instead they remain third and are now just eight points clear of Llanelli in fourth, who have three games in hand over them.
While they probably didn’t break into a chorus of Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life, Keys will have no doubt been heartened by news of other results.
Pontypridd are the runaway league leaders and the Pandy Park side’s other main rivals, apart from Llanelli, in clinching second and third spot – Bedwas, Llandovery and Carmarthen Quins – all lost.
“I’m devastated – that’s probably our league campaign gone really,” Woods said.
“We were poor in the first half but I was really pleased with the reaction after half- time.
“We had opportunities to win the game, didn’t take them, and they go the length of the field and win the game.
“I think Cardiff had the bounce of the ball and it was meant to be their day and fair play to them, they did us in the contact area.”
Keys trailed 17-11 at the break but it looked as if they were going to nil the Blue and Blacks in a second half they dominated.
The visitors again paid for their indiscipline, which is criminal at times.
Lock Dan Hodge was again guilty of leaving his teammates down when he was yellow-carded early in the second half for scrapping with Cardiff tighthead Ryan Harford less than five minutes after coming on as a replacement.
When he had replaced Rhys Peebles I joked with a colleague in the press box, asking him if he thought the second row would last the half without being sin-binned.
He is a fine player and I am an admirer but scarcely a game goes by without him spending ten minutes on the sidelines.
And it wasn’t a great day for the Hodge siblings because his brother, Ollie, went one better in the 67th minute when he so needlessly got himself sent off for dropping a knee on an opponent when his side were camped in the Cardiff 22.
Keys nearly got away with it, but it wasn’t meant to be, a hugely enjoyable game, on a crisp but beautiful spring afternoon, turning sour with its devastating denouement.
On balance, they probably just about deserved to win an encounter they were expected to come out on top in.
But Cardiff, who can be as unpredictable as France, tore up the script with glee, their commitment and willingness to attack from deep ensuring an upset, centre Matt Smith a bright prospect for them.
The Gwent side’s poor defence was also a contributory factor to their defeat.
Keys’ Dorian Jones could also have a bright future, the outside-half having a fine game once again.
Before the game their popular former attack coach Mark Ring, now looking after the backs at his native Cardiff, was the victim of some high jinks when some Keys players unscrewed his car’s number-plates and placed them on the wall outside the hosts’ changing- rooms.
The ex-Wales ace has a fine sense of humour, I’m told, and loved the practical joke.
The laughter soon dried up for the visitors, however, after a terrible start when an attempted clearance was charged down from the kick- off, which put them under the pressure which eventually saw Davies cross for his first try after just three minutes, converted by fly-half Joe Griffin, whose fine kicking saw him slot four out of five shots at goal.
Keys hit back with centre Aled James’ try soon after and Jones’ sweetly struck drop goal gave them the lead, but it was Cardiff’s half as Davies got his second try, the interval score ending with them leading 17-11.
Visiting captain Rob Nash, who came on as a 45th- minute replacement on the openside for Scott Matthews, dived over for a converted try from a driving lineout to give them the lead.
And a superbly struck penalty by Jones, who scored 11 points, from near the halfway line, looked to have sealed things for Keys with less than 20 minutes to go.
Wing Nathan Trowbridge looked to have saved the visitors with three minutes to go with an excellent try-saving tackle on Smith.
But they weren’t to get out of jail a second time, Davies shattering their dreams at the death.
Cardiff: S Hopkins, J Davies, M Smith, D Ryan, S Powell (capt), J Griffin, G Lucas, C Ma’afu (L Smout 75), A Fowler, R Harford, M Screech, J Murphy, N White (C Lewis 54-62, R Tucker 62), B Roach, D Crimmins (J Hopkins 74).
Replacements: D Partridge, A Field, M Woodward, W Jones.
Scorers: Tries – Jamie Davies (3); conversions – Joe Griffin (3); penalty – J Griffin.
Cross Keys: G David, K Baller, L Ford (P Williams 77), A James, N Trowbridge, D Jones, R Dyer (capt) (R James 3-6, 58), R Cornock (D Watchurst 52), B Parry (R Miller 52), A Lott, T Lampard, O Hodge, R Peebles (D Hodge 45), S Matthews (R Nash 45), A Powell.
Replacements: J Johnstone, N Williams. Scorers: Tries – Aled James, Rob Nash; conversions – Dorian Jones (2); penalty – Jones, drop goal – Jones.
Referee: Sean Brickell (WRU) Argus star man: Jamie Davies