9:31am Thursday 1st May 2014
CROSS Keys captain Leon Andrews has praised the class of 2014 for making the Swalec Cup final despite a season of change, writes Chris Kirwan.
The Pandy Park outfit take on fellow double-chasers Pontypridd at the Millennium Stadium on Sunday (kick-off 5.25pm).
It is a repeat of the 2012 final when Keys triumphed 32-19 to win the first major honour in their 129-year history.
Nine members of that matchday squad are no longer with the club and this season they have been disrupted by the August departure of captain Rob Nash to Coventry and the mid-campaign exit of influential hooker Gerwyn Price.
Nonetheless, Keys' core of mainstays have helped the new brigade to settle in to not only secure a Millennium Stadium return but a Premiership playoff semi-final against Carmarthen Quins.
Andrews believes that is evidence that some solid foundations have been laid at Pandy Park.
"To be playing in a second Swalec Cup final in three years is pretty special and shows how far we have come as a team and as a club," said the 29-year-old, who was promoted to skipper when Nash left.
"We play rugby to be in big games like these and the whole squad has played a part in getting us into this position – everybody has stepped up.
"We've lost a lot of players, important people like Gareth David, Rob Nash, Aaron Bramwell, Gerwyn Price, Luke Williams, but the new boys have really done well."
Ponty head into the game on the back of a heartbreaking loss to Leinster A in the British and Irish Cup semi-final, going out on try count after being locked at 22-22.
They will start Sunday's game as favourites but Keys have hope courtesy of a magnificent 38-17 triumph at Sardis Road last December.
"Pontypridd have been the team to beat at our level for a number of seasons now," said Andrews.
"They have lost their coaches (Dale McIntosh and Paul John to Cardiff Blues) and a few key players but Ponty are always strong.
"But anyone can beat anyone in the Premiership and we have already shown that once this season.
"We need to step up again today, play to our potential and give it a real go. I think it will be close and there's no reason why we can't come out on top."
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