Greg Woods: Neath the litmus test for in-form Keys
CROSS Keys head coach Greg Woods is expecting a “battle royal” when his side face Neath and look to continue their excellent winning streak.
The Welsh All Blacks may not be the force of old but they still present a formidable challenge for a Keys side seeking their fourth successive victory.
Neath used to be Keys’ nemesis but they went a long way towards expelling any demons last season when they hammered the men from The Gnoll 45-18 at home in the British & Irish Cup.
And the Pandy Park side are on the crest of a wave after they got another monkey off their back this week with a historic win in Swansea.
Their 25-14 triumph was their first victory at the famous St Helen’s ground since they took the spoils 9-3 way back in 1957.
Keys were worthy winners on Wednesday and came close to securing what would have been their third bonus point success in a row.
The visiting pack dominated Swansea’s eight for much of the game with young Dorian Jones – starting his first match for the club since signing from Ebbw Vale – controlling matters well at outside-half and place kicking beautifully.
It was an excellent all round team performance that promises much for the rest of the season and with a raft of quality players due back soon from injury, Keys are looking good.
But Woods insists they will not be polishing their laurels as they focus on their next mission.
“It was a great victory in Swansea and it was a game where we wanted to see the boys on the bench in action – it was good to see (scrum half) Rhys Dyer back from injury,” he said.
“We are getting better with each game, many of our injured players are coming back and our academy boys came on, which gave them vital game time.”
“We are happy with the win but all our eyes are focussed on Neath now.
“We know the how difficult the challenge ahead is and we’ve got to be ready for it – we are expecting a battle royal.
“They came up to Pandy Park and did us last season and then probably ended our play-off hopes when they beat us again down at the Gnoll as well.”
Woods was also pleased with the performance of his outside-half Jones, the youngest son of ex-Ebbw Vale and Wales captain Kingsley Jones, who is currently on a short-term contract with London Welsh from his job as Russia coach.
“Dorian was very good in his first start for us,” Woods said.
“His hamstring injury didn’t help with his preparations through the summer but he’s coming up to speed and there’s a nice little battle developing between him and Dean Gunter (Keys’ other outside-half), which is where we need to be really.”
Keys are without skipper Rob Nash who is banned for five weeks following his sending off for a stamp against Pontypridd on the opening day of the season.