Cross Keys 20 Bridgend 15 – match report
CROSS Keys were worthy winners over Bridgend in this mixed bag of a Principality Premiership encounter at Pandy Park – but victory came at a cost with backs Phil Williams and Nathan Williams suffering worrying knee injuries.
The entertaining second half of this encounter eclipsed a largely turgid first 40 minutes
It was their third win in a row after two successes in the welcome distraction of the British and Irish Cup.
It was Bridgend who looked the sharper from the off and they scored a sparkling try when full back Ross Jones crossed for an unconverted touchdown in the 11th minute although Keys’ tackling wasn’t the best as the Ravens backs passed sweetly from set piece possession after a scrum.
A beautifully struck long range penalty by the hosts’ full back Rhys Jones reduced the deficit to 5-3 as a mainly lacklustre first quarter came to an end.
No side seemed to be able to wrest control of the game as the match went through an almost aimless phase but Keys put together a fine move after half an hour when impressive young hooker Darren Hughes, signed from Newbridge, came agonisingly close to scoring only to be held up after fine work by outstanding ex-Cardiff blindside flanker Reuben Tucker and centres Leon Andrews and Phil Williams.
Keys were awarded a penalty try as a result when they had Bridgend in all sorts of trouble from a series of scrum fives, the home side’s excellent front row of Hughes, Richard Cornock and Anthony ‘Vinny’ Lott having a fine afternoon.
Rhys Jones’ conversion gave the home side a 10-5 lead.
Another thunderous penalty by the No 15, this time from the halfway line, extended their advantage just before the interval.
Bridgend outside half James Dixon let Keys off the hook on the stroke of half-time when he missed an eminently kickable penalty and the first 40 minutes ended with the home side eight points in the lead.
A much livelier and purposeful second half saw the game open up more with a greater sense of urgency shown by both sides.
Keys frequently looked to run from deep, Wales Sevens player Rhys Jones nearly getting away on one occasion.
And their adventure was rewarded in the 49th minute when they scored a superb try after scrum half Ryan James linked with outside half Steffan Jones whose burst opened up the visitors’ defence before he offloaded to wing Nathan Trowbridge who finished in some style, still having a man to beat. Rhys Jones’ conversion put Keys 20-5 up.
The hosts’ tails were up but they were hit completely against the run of play soon after when Bridgend fly half Dixon intercepted from over halfway to score a try under the posts which he converted.
Keys lock Dan Hodge and Bridgend number eight Scott Hicks were sin binned with a quarter of an hour to go after some afters and the visitors started to fancy their chances of sneaking a win.
A Dixon penalty cut Keys’ lead to 20-15 with ten minutes to go after they were unlucky not to get more from a period of pressure.
The game entered a tense denouement for the hosts but they were never really seriously in danger of losing the match.
Rhys Jones should have settled their nerves with a penalty but he was off target with an effort well within his capabilities.
Bridgend tried to cut loose from deep in their own half but the scorers weren’t troubled again as Keys held the game in a tight grip to deservedly win.
The Keys set piece continues to be impressive with a solid and often dominant scrum, slick lineout and all the forwards put in an archetypal enormous amount of effort and commitment, playing for each other with number eight Adam Powell leading from the front.
Centre Phil Williams and utility back Nathan Williams suffered cruel knee injuries late in the game and both left the field in some discomfort.
The extent of their injuries will be assessed in the coming days.
* Cross Keys' home game against Bedwas which was supposed to have taken place on Wednesday night has been re-arranged and will now be played on Sunday, February 2, kick-off 2.30pm.
Cross Keys: R Jones, J Cordy-Redden, L Andrews (capt), P Williams (A Bramwell 74), N Trowbridge (N Williams 70) (E Jones 76), S Jones, R James, R Cornock, D Hughes, A Lott (N Buck 67), D Hodge, O Hodge, R Tucker, T Lampard, A Powell.
Replacements: M Auger, G Price, S Higgins, R Dyer.
Cross Keys scorers: Tries – Penalty try (33), Nathan Trowbridge (49), Conversions – Rhys Jones (33) (49), Penalties – Rhys Jones (18, 37)
Bridgend: R Jones, L Morgan, N Edwards, A Williams, J Murphy, J Dixon, C Williams, G Carpenter (C Lewis 70), A James (G George 70), J Thomas, O Lloyd, A Jones (capt), J Vaughan (G Knoop 57), J Hopkins, S Hicks.
Replacements: J Bamsey, D Barry, S Hopkins, R Owen.
Bridgend scorers: Tries – Ross Jones (11), James Dixon (52), Conversion – James Dixon (52), Penalty – J Dixon (70)
Referee: Gwyn Morris (WRU)
Argus star men: Darren Hughes and Reuben Tucker
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