10:00am Friday 11th April 2014
CROSS Keys head coach Greg Woods has called on his 'go-to players' to deliver a return to the Millennium Stadium by beating Llandovery in the semi-finals of the Swalec Cup, writes Chris Kirwan.
Premiership form suggests that it will be a tight tussle when Keys take on the Drovers at the Gnoll in Neath tomorrow afternoon (kick-off 2.30pm).
The league encounters between the sides have gone with home advantage – 29-13 at Pandy Park in September and 23-16 at Church Bank in February – and they are involved in a scrap for the playoffs with third-placed Llandovery three points above fourth-placed Keys, who have a game in hand.
The core of Woods' side will be able to call on the experience of a pair of successful 2012 last-four encounters when they edged out the Cornish Pirates to make it to the final of the British and Irish Cup before they sneaked past Ebbw Vale on try count on their way to lifting the Swalec Cup.
He said: "Boys that have been in this situation before – the likes of (prop) Richard Cornock, (lock/back row) Tom Lampard, (centre and captain) Leon Andrews and (lock) Dan Hodge – have to deliver. They have done it before and need to do it again.
"It'd be a hell of an achievement if we can get to the Millennium Stadium for a second time in three years and these big games at the end of the season are what you are involved in the game for.
"LLandovery are a difficult side to play against but we have just got to go to the Gnoll and impose ourselves on the game.
"Semi-finals always come down to the small margins and hopefully the boys' recent experiences will help them through; it's about keeping your discipline but not being frightened to go out and play."
Keys head into the game on the back of a 7-3 home loss to second-placed Carmarthen Quins in a crunch encounter in the tussle for playoff berths.
It leaves them with no margin for error next week when they face a pair of crunch Gwent derbies against Bedwas (Wednesday) and Newport (Saturday.
"We haven't really mentioned the Quins defeat in training," said Woods. "I'm a big believer in keeping the league and cup separate.
"We certainly can't afford to be thinking about the derbies that are coming up if we are to beat Llandovery."
Dragons fly-half Steffan Jones will once again slot in at full-back with Dorian Jones at 10 while flanker Reuben Tucker features in the matchday squad three days after skippering Swansea University to success in the Welsh Varsity game at the Millennium Stadium.
- Holders and Premiership champions Pontypridd are hot favourites to win the other semi-final when they take on Aberavon at Bridgend's Brewery Field.
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