Recent memories mean Ponty challenge holds no fear for Keys
Updated 8:06pm Saturday 3rd May 2014 in Sport
PONTYPRIDD are the standard bearers for semi-professional rugby in Wales but Cross Keys hold no fear about slugging it out with the men from Sardis Road in tomorrow's Swalec Cup final.
The pair of Premiership title hopefuls will battle it out at the Millennium Stadium in the third fixture on finals day (kick-off 5.25pm).
Ponty are bidding for a second double on the spin while Keys are attempting to win just their second major honour in their 129-year history.
But this is no mismatch.
The Pandy Park outfit were triumphant when the teams met in the final two years ago, romping to a magnificent 32-19 victory.
And when the sides met in the league at Sardis in December it was the away changing room that was raucous post-match following a stunning 38-17 bonus point win.
"Pontypridd always deserve respect because of all that they have achieved in recent years but we have shown that we are more than capable of beating them," said Keys head coach Greg Woods.
"We outplayed them at Sardis Road and need to take the game to them again, to attack them and get on the front foot rather than going into our shells.
"And make no mistake, Ponty respect us as well because of how we have played against them recently."
Keys have opted for a mobile pack on the wide expanses of the Millennium Stadium with Dragons forward, and former Wales sevens captain, Jevon Groves slotting in at lock.
The 26-year-old, who is an assistant coach to Woods, was on regional duty at Parc y Scarlets last night.
The battle at the breakdown between young Keys openside and veteran Ponty scavenger supreme Wayne O'Connor promises to be a cracker while Aled James and Leon Andrews will look to stand firm against the holders' strong Dafydd Lockyer-Gavin Dacey combo.
The Keys matchday 23 includes just eight members of the squad that won winner's medals in 2012.
The Pandy Park outfit have had to do things the hard way to make it back to the Millennium; they have not enjoyed home advantage once and have had to battle past four Premiership rivals in Neath, Bedwas, Cardiff and Llandovery.
Head coach Greg Woods said: "To make a second final in three years is reward for the hard work that so many people put in at the club. It's a great achievement for the village.
"But I would say it tastes a little bit sweeter this year. It was tough ask playing away at Premiership clubs round after round but the boys have come through.
"It's been a really hard route to the final but it means that we are battle-hardened and have got used to dealing with pressure."
Cross Keys: S Jones, E Jones, L Andrews (captain), A James, J Cordy-Redden, D Jones, R Dyer, R Cornock, D Hughes, C Gould, D Hodge, J Groves, R Tucker, S Matthews, A Powell. Replacements: H Palmer, L Garrett, A Lott, T Lampard, I Jones, R James, P Williams, N Trowbridge.
Pontypridd: G Walsh, L I Williams, G Dacey, D Lockyer (captain), M Nuthall, S Humberstone, J Raikes, J Howe, A Morris, K Jenkins, C Locke, C Dicomidis, J Sieniawski, W O'Connor, D Godfrey. Replacements: L Williams, D Flanagan, A Summerhill, L Belcher, L Crocker, O Sheppeard, H Dowden, J Jones.
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