Cross Keys 3 Newcastle 34
CROSS Keys couldn’t put a dent in Newcastle’s invincible season as the Falcons secured a 19th competitive win out of 19 at Pandy Park.
That this rearranged British & Irish Cup clash went ahead after last month’s snow was something of a miracle.
The hard work and determination of the hosts’ officials and volunteers helped make the pitch playable after the recent heavy rain had flooded the pitch.
But there was to be no fairytale giant killing for the semi-professionals of the Keys side who battled valiantly, but vainly, against the full-time pros.
The visitors were at about half full-strength – if that makes any sense – against a Keys side containing about 10 first team starting regulars.
It didn’t take Newcastle too long to take the lead after new signing number eight Ollie Steadman scored a debut try in the 10th minute which was converted from the touchline by fly half Jimmy Gopperth.
And the outside half stretched the Falcons’ advantage to 10-0 when sustained pressure by the visitors saw Keys concede a penalty in front of their posts.
Keys were constantly under the cosh and Gopperth’s second penalty just before the half hour mark kept the scoreboard ticking over for the visitors.
The home side’s resistance was remarkable and they kept the Falcons at bay despite the relentless pressure.
Keys lock Dan Hodge was yellow carded just before half time for killing the ball but his side held to trail just 13-0 at the interval.
The home side were down to 13 men when openside flanker Scott Matthews was sin binned for killing the ball in the opening minutes of the second half.
Newcastle immediately pressed home their two-man advantage when ex-Wales scrum half Warren Fury scored down the blindside, Gopperth again kicked an immaculate conversion from the touchline to make it 20-0.
Keys found it hard to build any platform from lineout and scrum where they were under intense pressure and they were forced to live off the tiniest of scraps.
It wasn’t comfortable viewing for the home fans for the most part, despite their side’s bravery, but they had something to shout for when outside half Dorian Jones came close to scoring a try after a fly hack was just about gathered by the Falcons’ defence on their try line.
But from that near-miss, Keys were soon awarded a penalty which Jones slotted over to give them three points.
The Falcons were awarded a penalty try in the 66th minute, converted by Gopperth.
Keys lost their third man to the sin bin five minutes from the end when replacement openside and club captain Rob Nash saw yellow.
Newcastle were awarded their second try, and the bonus point, in the 77th minute and Gopperth slotted the conversion to chalk up his 14th point of the night.
Cross Keys: G David, N Williams, L Williams, A James, N Trowbridge (W Owen 60), D Jones (D Gunter 67), R Dyer (capt) (R James 67), R Cornock (C Gould 56), M Davies, A Lot, D Hodge, O Hodge (R Nash 60), S Higgins, S Matthews (T Lampard 67), Adam Powell.
Replacement: G Price.
Newcastle Falcons: T Catterick (J Hodgson 67), A Higgins (J Fitzpatrick 69), A Crockett, J Helleur, R Shortland, J Gopperth, W Fury (R Lawson 57), J Golding, R Vickers, O Tomaszczyk (J Hall 57), J Hudson, S MacLeod, M Wilson (R Mayhew 67), W Welch (capt), O Steadman (C York 73).
Replacement: M Thompson.
Referee: Eanna O’Dowd (Ireland)
Cross Keys scorer: Penalty – Dorian Jones.
Newcastle scorers: Tries – Ollie Steadman, Warren Fury, Penalty tries (2), Conversions – Jimmy Gopperth (4), Penalties – Gopperth (2).
TONIGHT'S OTHER RESULTS: Wales U20s 17 Ireland U20s 15; Blackwood 40 Pontypool 7; Bedford 64 Bedwas 0