8:16am Saturday 19th April 2014
CROSS Keys can take a giant step towards a Premiership playoff semi-final by earning a hat-trick of wins against Newport this afternoon, writes Chris Kirwan.
Keys climbed into the top three when they edged a tight encounter with Bedwas at Pandy Park on Wednesday, tries by wing Elliott Jones and centre Phil Williams earning a 13-8 victory.
And if the players can enjoy another Gwent derby success then they will promptly ask about what has gone on in Carmarthen where the second-placed Quins are hosting fourth-placed Llandovery.
If the Drovers come a cropper without a bonus point then a victory against the Black and Ambers would cement third place for Keys, saving the Swalec Cup finalists a nervy last day at Bridgend.
Eighth-placed Newport are envious of Keys' bid for a double but have no shortage of motivation themselves – they can still overtake fierce rivals Cardiff in the table and will want to beat the Pandy Park outfit after losing to them twice this season.
Keys took the spoils 39-17 in a British and Irish Cup qualifier in August and edged the league meeting at Rodney Parade earlier this month 10-9 thanks to Dorian Jones' late penalty.
Today's hosts rang the changes for their midweek clash with Bedwas but bring back their regulars for Newport although Henry Palmer, 18, gets a chance at hooker with experienced props Richard Cornock and Craig Gould either side of him.
Openside Scott Matthews returns and will go toe-to-toe with his Wales Under-20s teammate Ollie Griffiths ahead of next week's squad announcement for the Junior World Championship.
The Black and Ambers are without hookers Andrew Brown and Dale Rogers so converted prop Jamie Jeune gets the start and Evan Whitson – son of former Newport and Wales flanker Geoff – is his back-up on permit from Usk. Glamorgan Wanderers' Ross Gibbon covers lock and the back row.
Cross Keys : R Lee; E Jones, L Andrews (captain), P Williams, J Cordy-Redden; D Jones, R Dyer, R Cornock, H Palmer, C Gould, D Hodge, T Lampard, R Tucker, A Powell, S Matthews. Replacements: L Garrett, D Hughes, A Lott, O Hodge, J Perkins, O Jones, A O'Brien, A James.
Newport : G O'Driscoll, A Hewitt, D Robinson, D Franchi, O'Broad, M O'Brien, A Quick, D Pattison (captain), J Jeune, A Jeffries, Adam Brown, A Frampton, S Waldron, O Griffiths, B Lampitt. Replacements: E Whitson, J Greenfield, R Gibbon, D Rosser, J Leadbeater, E Davies, T James, J Monck.
Keys will present eight members with certificates for their NVQs in ground safety before the game.
BEDWAS play their final home game of the season when they welcome Bridgend to Bridge Field this afternoon.
Steve Law's side have enjoyed another good campaign and look destined to finish sixth.
After being edged out by Cross Keys at Pandy Park in midweek, Bedwas will look to finish on a high and bring back influential number eight Deri Mattravers after he made a big impact off the bench.
Bedwas: S Thomas, E Jones, L Hudd, H Thomson, R Budina, R Powell, L Crane, B Thomas, R Wilkes, M Pettit, P Rees, J Davies, S Grainger (captain), J Sawyer, D Mattravers. Replacements: J Mills, I George, R Hutcherson, J Thomas, AN Other, R Downes, A Humberstone, S Cullen.
Other Premiership fixtures: Cardiff v Pontypridd, Carmarthen Q v Llandovery, Llanelli v Swansea.
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