Cross Keys dominate but labour to victory – Swansea 13 Cross Keys 19 match report
CROSS Keys’ victory over Swansea reminded one of that old joke about buses – you wait an age for one to turn up before two come along at the same time.
Last season Keys won at St Helen’s for the first time in 56 years and they opened their Principality Premiership account by backing that historic triumph with a victory that should have been far more comfortable than the score-line suggests.
The Pandy Park side, on a roll after beating Newport and Bedwas to qualify for the British and Irish Cup, could have had a bonus point victory if they’d been more clinical, such was their dominance over an All Whites side who finished bottom of the pile last term.
The Gwent side make no secret of their desire to finish in the top three to atone for missing out on the league play-offs by a point this year.
And going on the evidence so far in this campaign, they will be there or thereabouts.
Swansea look like they’ve improved from the side who came away from Keys last season after suffering a humiliating 48-0 thrashing.
With the spectre of relegation looming, they needed to really and made Keys work hard for their victory, never throwing in the towel.
The visitors butchered golden try-scoring chance after chance on a beautiful autumn day on the open spaces of the famous old ground.
Their wastefulness was almost criminal because right at the death they gave Swansea a glimmer of hope of actually stealing the game.
Keys’ highly promising Wales Under-18s outside-half Angus O’Brien had a fine game and ended up with a 14-point haul after kicking four penalties and a handsome touchline conversion of lock Dan Hodge’s 69th minute try.
The fact the teenager was sportingly applauded by the home fans after he left the field when he was replaced by Dorian Jones late in the game spoke volumes about how well he’d played, the Swansea fans recognising talent when they see it.
For Keys, second rows Hodge and Tom Lampard were magnificent, the former’s touchdown as a result of a superb finish to add to the two he got in the 45-13 annihilation of Bedwas last week.
The excellent Lampard was everywhere as his remarkable try-saving tackle on fine Swansea centre Aled Jenkins in the first half demonstrated.
Keys led 9-6 at half-time, thanks to three O’Brien penalties opposed to two by his counterpart Nicky J Thomas.
They toiled to pull clear after the interval but had nothing to show for their efforts apart from another penalty until Hodge crossed late on, the conversion making it 19-6.
But Swansea scored a sparkling 76th minute try through wing Richard Williams, Thomas’ conversion setting up a tense finale as the game came alive when the party was nearly over.
The pressure was cranked up after Keys’ replacement forwards Darren Hughes and Scott Andrews were sin binned to reduce them to play out the game with just 13 men.
But the visitors were never seriously threatened and they held on to win a game but it was far too close for comfort than they would have liked.
“That was our worst performance of the season,” Keys head coach Greg Woods admitted after the game.
“But as someone who knows what it’s like to come away from St Helen’s after a 70-point defeat, it’s always great to win here.
“I thought O’Brien was superb – he’s going to be some player – and Hodge and Lampard kept us together.
“We need to be far more clinical, especially with Pontypridd up next.”
Keys know they will have to improve because they host league and cup champions Ponty at Pandy Park on Saturday in a huge encounter for the club.
Swansea: J Hamer, R Williams, A Jenkins (P Davies 71), D Watts (capt), A Claypole, N J Thomas, J Cole (J James 58), N Smith (T Sloane 71), S Otten (P John 64), N Thomas (A Mason 71), T Price (B Fox 66), T Hughes (J Barley 64), J McKenna (P John 29-37), R Dudley-Jones, S Pailor.
Replacements: N Harwood.
Swansea scorers: Try – Richard Williams, Conversion – Nicky J Thomas, Penalties – Thomas (2) Cross Keys: A Bramwell (R Jones 64), L Williams, L Andrews (capt), P Williams, N Trowbridge, A O'Brien (D Jones 73), R James (R Dyer 50) R Cornock (L Garrett 71), G Price (D Hughes 62), N Buck (A Lott 62), D Hodge, T Lampard, R Tucker (R Peebles 46), S Matthews (S Andrews 70), J Groves.
Cross Keys scorers: Try – Dan Hodge, Conversion – Angus O’Brien (69), Penalties – O’Brien (4)
Referee: Simon Rees (WRU)
Argus star man: Tom Lampard
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