CROSS KEYS 35 BRIDGEND 15
A HIGHLY accomplished 35-15 bonus point victory was just the tonic Cross Keys needed to get over the dreadful hangover lingering from Pontypridd’s rampant opening day triumph at Pandy Park.
This game had looked a tricky one on paper for Keys, Bridgend getting their campaign off to a great start with a win over a Llanelli side who went on to smash Newport at Rodney Parade on Friday night.
But Keys dominated the Ravens for great swathes of a game that was by turns entertaining, frustrating and messy, punctuated by the shrill blast of the referee’s whistle as Simon Rees heavily penalised the home side.
Keys played very well collectively but special praise goes once again to their almost superhuman hooker Gerwyn Price.
Why this player isn’t with the Newport Gwent Dragons is a mystery.
Almost equally perplexing is why one of the other Welsh regions or England’s Aviva Premiership clubs hasn’t come knocking at Price’s door. Some at Keys think he is the best hooker in Wales. He is certainly a superb player, a complete No 2 with great energy, hands and vision.
Keys’ skilled seven and skipper Rob Nash also had an excellent afternoon, again something he badly needed after he carried much of the can for the defeat to Ponty, receiving a yellow card and then a red almost as soon as he got back on the pitch from the sin bin in that game.
Keys head coach Greg Woods also praised his half backs, scrum half Ryan James and outside half Dean Gunter, for their performances: “I thought Ryan was outstanding and Dean controlled the game well.
“Rob went from a villain last week to a hero and Gerwyn was brilliant.
“I was disappointed that we gave away so many penalties and with our two yellow cards (lock Dan Hodge and No 8 Adam Powell were both sent to the sin bin in the first half for infringing at the breakdown).”
Woods added: “I was pleased with our set piece and that we played with a lot more width than we did against Pontypridd. To get a bonus point win after last week’s display is very pleasing as was the way not only our established players performed, but the new group as well.”
While one shouldn’t detract from Keys’ consummate performance, it has to be said that Bridgend were poor.
The Ravens are usually a joy to watch, playing with a sparkle that’s so easy on the eye.
But on Saturday, their attacking edge was conspicuously blunt as they butchered chances that could have made a real game of it, although credit should also go to some great defensive work by the home side.
Keys possessed a killer instinct that saw them convert nearly every scoring opportunity and grab their bonus point try in the very last play of the game when wing Nathan Trowbridge finished well, returning from a hernia operation.
Gunter strikes the ball sweetly and had a great day, only missing one place kick from seven to give him 15 points from his three penalties and conversions apiece.
Keys’ scrum was also menacing and they caused Bridgend all sorts of problems, the visitors losing four on their own put in.
The hosts’ first try, after quarter of an hour, was a gem, Nash’s fine support work seeing him romp home after centre Leon Andrews’ cute pass inside as Bridgend were hit on the break.
Their second came after 28 minutes when usual hooker Jamie Sollis, playing on the blindside, pounced on a charged down kick after full back Gareth David’s intelligent kick ahead from a penalty on Keys’ own line caused some defensive calamities at the other end of the pitch.
Try number three came early in the second half when impressive centre Luke Ford, son of former Cardiff and Wales wing Steve Ford, showed great strength to power over and make the points safe at 28-15 after the visitors had threatened to break their way back into the game.
All Bridgend had to show from their efforts were five penalties from their gifted full back Ross Jones.
And the added bonus for Keys is that, with several quality players all about to return to the fray after injury, they will only get better.
Cross Keys: G David, N Williams, L Andrews (A James 37), L Ford (E Jones 74), N Trowbridge, D Gunter, R James (J Lewis 74), Cornock (J Johnstone 79), G Price, C Gould, D Hodge, O Hodge, J Sollis, R Nash (capt), A Powell.
Replacements: S Higgins, G Horrigan, S Matthews, D Jones.
Scorers: Tries – Rob Nash, Jamie Sollis, Luke Ford, Nathan Trowbridge, Conversions – Dean Gunter (3), Penalties – Gunter (3)
Bridgend: R Jones, R Williams, J Leyshon, N Edwards (A Evans 74), L Morgan, J Murphy (B Thomas 62), K Barrett, M Thomas (K Dowding 58), A James (M Dwyer 58), J Thomas (D Sutter 58), L Peers, L Davies (A Jones 62), J Vaughen (capt), L Evans, A Hillier-Rees.
Replacements: A Watts, C Williams.
Scorers: Penalties: Ross Jones (5).
Referee: Simon Rees (WRU)
Argus star man: Gerwyn Price