CROSS Keys have signed “three quality and experienced” players as they continue to compete on three fronts this season, writes Iwan Gabe Davies.
Two former club favourites return in full-back/wing Ryan Lee and scrum-half Owen Jones while former Bedwas captain and back rower Phil Sargent comes out of early retirement to join the Pandy Park outfit.
Lee, 24, has been playing in the Swalec Championship for Newbridge while 34-year-old veteran Jones makes his comeback after a stint as player/coach with Division Two East’s Fleur-de-Lys.
The pair join on 18-month contracts while the 28-year-old Sargent is on a deal until the end of the season.
On the weekend Keys edged their first round Swalec Cup tie 23-17 away at Neath while they return to British and Irish Cup action on Saturday.
London side Ealing arrive in the Gwent Valleys with head coach Greg Woods’ men still with an outside chance of qualifying for the quarter-finals.
Riding high in the Principality Premiership, currently fourth but with games in hand over their rivals, he believes the trio will play key roles in the club’s hunt for silverware this season.
“I think we’ve made some shrewd business because these are three quality and experienced players,” Woods said.
“We’ve taken no chances and I think these signings highlight the club’s desire to move forward.
“We are well placed in the Swalec Cup and the league and this trio will no doubt give us a boost.”
Looking back on their victory over Neath at the Gnoll on Saturday, Keys nearly letting slip a 23-3 lead during a breathless finale which saw the Welsh All Blacks hammer away at their try-line in the dying minutes, Woods said: “I thought we were a bit rusty and we struggled at times in the scrum and lineout.
“But I thought Dorian Jones controlled things well at outside-half and our captain and number eight Adam Powell was outstanding.
“I think we took our foot off the gas when we went 20 points up, but I’m pleased with the win – after all, Neath knocked us out of the cup last season.”
Woods added: “I think they are improving a lot (their opponents hadn’t won a single game this campaign until they recorded back-to-back victories last month under returning head coach Pat Horgan going into the cup tie) and I think they might have conceded 40 odd points earlier this season.”
Ealing fired Keys a warning shot on Sunday when they won just their third game of the season with a surprise 28-27 victory away at Nottingham in the English Championship.