CROSS Keys moved up one place to third in the Principality Premiership with their sixth successive league victory over a struggling Aberavon.
To say it wasn’t a classic would be a huge overstatement but the hosts won’t care as they proved their credentials as serious title contenders once again.
Another win means they also head to Rodney Parade on Saturday full of confidence to clash with their big rivals Newport.
Their victory over the Wizards was workmanlike in heavy and muddy conditions and against a foe clearly determined to put pride back in the jersey after some fearful batterings to English opposition in the British and Irish Cup.
If the first half belonged to Keys, the second was dominated by Aberavon who lacked the hosts’ clinical edge, the home side’s defence also first rate when under severe pressure.
Old favourite Owen Jones was drafted in at the last minute to alleviate Keys’ scrum-half crisis with Ryan James and Rhys Dyer out injured, Kristian Baller having to withdraw with illness.
One of the club greats, the Fleur-de-Lys player/coach was parachuted in to help out his old side in their hour of need and did a sterling job.
Keys were keen to bounce back after back-to-back defeats to Leinster A in the British and Irish Cup.
And it took them a while to get into the game after a largely uneventful opening which the Wizards shaded, squandering one great chance of scoring the opening try.
But it was Nathan Trowbridge who broke the deadlock in the 16th minute when he touched down in the corner after Keys finally managed to secure territory and go through some phases and take a 5-0 lead.
They began to assert their authority up front and it wasn’t long before Dorian Jones put them further ahead with a penalty.
The Wizards were reduced to 14 men when tighthead prop Chris John was sin binned for persistent infringing and hooker Ieuan Davies joined him about a minute later when he was seemingly wrongly yellow carded.
He was dismissed for ten minutes for deliberately knocking on after a terrific run by his opposite number Gerwyn Price.
Keys pressed home their advantage almost immediately when openside flanker Scott Matthews crashed over from a driving lineout.
Dorian Jones added the extras to make it 15-0 after 27 minutes and Keys took that advantage into the interval.
The second half started with Keys hammering away at the visitors’ try-line but some good last ditch defending kept them at bay.
Aberavon clawed their way back into things and an infringement at a driving lineout close to the hosts’ line resulted in number eight Adam Powell receiving a yellow card.
The Wizards dominated large parts of the second 40 half but great tackling by Keys and some blunt play by the visitors meant they were held out until wing Richard Carter crossed with 12 minutes left, his try going unconverted.
The home side at last came to life in the closing stages but there was to be no more scoring.
Keys may well have had one eye on their Christmas derby against the Black and Ambers.
Cross Keys: James Cordy-Redden, Elliot Jones, Leon Andrews (capt) (Nathan Williams 74), Aled James, Nathan Trowbridge, Dorian Jones, Owen Jones, Luke Garrett (Richard Cornock 50), Gerwyn Price (Darren Hughes 58), Anthony Lott (Craig Gould 78), Danny Hodge (Ollie Hodge 74), Tom Lampard, Jevon Groves (Reuben Tucker 74), Scott Matthews, Adam Powell.
Replacements: Phil Williams, Henry Palmer.
Cross Keys scorers: Tries – Nathan Trowbridge (16), Scott Matthews (27), Conversion – Dorian Jones (27), Penalties – D Jones (21)
Aberavon: John Phillips, Richard Carter (Andrew Clatworthy 30-38), Richard Thomas, Will Price (Matthew Jenkins 74), Stef Andrews, Jamie Davies, Dan Davies (Lee Evans 68), Rowan Jenkins (Neil White 68), Ieuan Davies, Chris John (Andrew Clatworthy 40), Gavin Ronan, Ian Moore (Rhydian Gierat 70), Nathan Brown (Evan Yardley 30-38), Chris Davies, Ben Thomas (Richard Morris 74).
Replacement: Paul Smithson.
Aberavon scorer: Try – Richard Carter (68)
Referee: Daniel Jones (WRU)
Argus star man: Dorian Jones