CROSS Keys head coach Greg Woods says his side must up their game if they are to beat their Gwent rivals Newport on Tuesday night.
The Pandy Park side’s boss had mixed emotions after his men secured a 32-19 bonus point win over relegation-haunted Neath at the Gnoll on yesterday.
While he was delighted the five-point victory moved Keys up one place to fourth in the Principality Premiership – and was an important step in their play-off push – he was less pleased with his side’s stuttering performance.
Keys head to Rodney Parade to face a Newport side enjoying something of a resurgence, losing just once in their last five games.
The Black and Ambers were desperately unlucky not to beat Llanelli at Parc y Scarlets on Friday night, the West Walians scoring a converted try at the death to claim a 22-22 draw.
Sven Cronk’s troops did Keys a huge favour by putting the brakes on Llanelli’s play-off ambitions, the Gwent Valleys side leapfrogging them in the table.
Speaking after the triumph in Neath, Woods said: “We’re very pleased with the win and the five points, but that was one of our worst performances for a long time.
“We were sloppy and overconfident after we went 15-0 up.
“It was our third win of the season over Neath, which is not to be sniffed at.
“But we will have to move up a gear if we are to beat Newport in midweek and Carmarthen Quins at home on Saturday.”
Keys dominated the first quarter as they used their distinct advantage up front to bully the Welsh All Blacks’ forwards.
Outside-half Dorian Jones slotted over a second minute penalty before powerful lock Dan Hodge shrugged off defenders to claim his tenth try of the season.
A cute pass by Jones put in Darren Hughes for a well-worked score, the hooker’s delight obvious as he celebrated his first try for the club on his 20th appearance.
Jones’ conversion made it 15-0 after 19 minutes and Neath, who are just four points clear of bottom side Swansea, must have been fearing a major hammering.
To their credit, the hosts rolled up their sleeves and got themselves back in the game as Keys took their foot off the gas.
Two penalties by their fly-half James Thomas gave the Gnoll faithful something to cheer before wing Alec Jenkins crossed in the corner for an unconverted try with the last play of a first half which ended with Keys leading by just 15-11.
Promising full-back James Cordy-Redden looks a fine prospect and he helped set up a try for centre Aled James, converted by Jones, as the visitors looked as if they had broken Neath’s resistance.
But they refused to throw in the towel, lock James Goode getting over in the 57th minute for an unconverted try and another Thomas penalty soon after reduced Keys’ lead to 22-19.
The Gwent side held their nerve, centre Leon Andrews finishing in style to seal the win and the bonus point with his side’s fourth try, the inspirational captain’s second touchdown in successive games after scoring in his comeback game last week against Cardiff following a lengthy lay-off with a dislocated elbow.
Jones’ conversion and a late penalty by his replacement Angus O’Brien brought the curtain down on an entertaining if error-strewn encounter.
Neath had their captain Lee Evans sent off in the dying seconds for punching an opponent in front of referee Ian Davies.
Neath: Dale Ford (Aaron Bramwell 50), Alec Jenkins; David Langdon, Ryan Evans, Ceri Young, James Thomas, Tom James (Josh Davies 77), Mike Bermingham (Roy Jones 70), Gerwyn Price (Sion Crocker 69), Marc Jones, Jack Jones (Gavin Evans 14) James Goode; Gareth Bateman (Jordan Collier 48-55), Steffan Jones, Calum Davies (Lee Evans 41).
Scorers: Tries – Alec Jenkins, James Goode, Penalties – James Thomas (3).
Cross Keys: James Cordy-Redden, Nathan Williams (Nathan Trowbridge 76), Leon Andrews (capt), Aled James, Elliot Jones, Dorian Jones (Angus O'Brien 60), Ryan James (Owen Jones 76), Richard Cornock (Luke Garrett 64), Darren Hughes (Henry Palmer 76), Craig Gould (Anthony Lott 74), Dan Hodge, Scott Andrews (Tom Lampard 75), Ieuan Jones (Jack Condy 69), Reuben Tucker, Adam Powell.
Scorers: Tries – Dan Hodge, Darren Hughes, Aled James, Leon Andrews, Conversions – Dorian Jones (3), Penatlies – D Jones, Angus O’Brien.
Referee: Ian Davies (Wales)
Argus star man: Leon Andrews