NEWPORT 9 CROSS KEYS 10
A LAST-GASP penalty by Dorian Jones ensured that Cross Keys maintained their push for the Premiership playoffs by edging a dour derby at Rodney Parade.
The replacement fly-half struck a penalty in the 80th minute to sneak a victory that closes the gap on third-placed Carmarthen Quins to a point ahead of Saturday’s meeting between the sides at Pandy Park.
It was certainly a case of winning ugly but that won’t be of too much concern for Keys, although they will need to up their game to climb in the playoff berths this weekend.
Mid-table Newport, meanwhile, will be frustrated that they failed to see out the job after finding themselves in front in the closing stages thanks to the left peg of full-back Geraint O’Driscoll.
The Black and Ambers were good value for a 6-0 lead at the break after a turgid first half that tested the patience of referee Simon Rees as well as the crowd.
It was frankly all a bit petty; not even the scuffles were of high quality and a game might have broken out if the handbags had been put to one side.
The Black and Ambers showed more patience in attack yet were unable to find a way through Keys’ well-drilled defence, thus had to settle for a pair of penalties by full-back Geraint O’Driscoll.
That wouldn’t have been overly disappointing for the visitors given that they failed to get their attacking game going at all and had a spell down to 14 men courtesy of flanker Reuben Tucker’s yellow card for one of many breakdown offences.
In fact, Keys skipper Leon Andrews probably ran more yards when beckoned for chats by Mr Rees than he did with ball in hand in the first half.
There were a few half-breaks – most notably Newport fly-half Ethan Davies getting caught just shy of the line before flinging an offload that failed to go to hand – but virtually nothing that would make a highlights reel.
Thankfully the second half was a more lively affair and it was Keys that were straight on the front foot.
They should have done better when lock Danny Hodge went through a gap at a ruck to sneak within inches of the try line only for fly-half Angus O’Brien and centre Phil Williams to make a mess of prime attacking position.
But the visitors were determined to make the most of their territory and turned down shots at goal in favour of attacking scrums.
That proved to be a wise call when, with replacement Newport flanker Sam Waldron in the sin bin just seconds after coming on for detaching too early, Keys powered to a penalty try to earn a 7-6 lead with half an hour left.
That was how it stayed until 68 minutes as the errors crept back in and it was a mistake that enabled Newport to edge back in front, O’Driscoll bisecting the posts after the visitors had infringed while in possession in their own 22.
A strong Keys scrum swiftly earned replacement fly-half Dorian Jones a chance to inch his side back in front but his long-range penalty didn’t have the legs.
However, he was to make no mistake when presented with another chance in the 80th minute following a sharp run by wing Nathan Trowbridge.
Newport : G O'Driscoll, A Hewitt, T Morgan, D Robinson (D Franchi 54), T James, E Davies, J Leadbeater (A Quick 54), D Pattison, Andrew Brown, G Robinson, D Rosser (Adam Brown 54), A Frampton, C Attwell (captain, S Waldron 47-61), O Griffiths, B Lampitt (S Waldron 8-16).
Scorers: penalties – G O’Driscoll (3)
Yellow card: S Waldron
Cross Keys: R Lee (D Jones 60), E Jones, L Andrews (captain), P Williams, N Trowbridge, A O’Brien, R James, L Garrett (R Cornock 49), D Hughes, C Gould (A Lott 49), D Hodge, S Andrews, T Lampard, R Tucker (J Perkins 69), A Powell.
Scorers: try – penalty; conversion – A O’Brien; penalty – D Jones
Yellow card: R Tucker
Referee: Simon Rees (WRU)
Argus star man: Adam Powell