CROSS KEYS 8 PONTYPRIDD 21
CROSS Keys failed to emulate the heroics of 2012 when they lifted the Swalec Cup after losing this rematch at the Millennium Stadium to Pontypridd, writes Iwan Gabe Davies.
The Pandy Park side will look back at what might have been because basic errors and turnovers at crucial stages saw Ponty retain the cup and lift the trophy for the sixth times.
Keys still have the huge incentive of the league title to play for and face Carmarthen Quins in a semi-final playoff next Sunday.
A lively opening saw Ponty edge territory and possession before the game was held up for several minutes after blindside flanker Reuben Tucker was treated following a collision.
There was concern he might have sustained a serious injury but the tough back rower carried on.
Keys began to put the squeeze on the men from Sardis Road and some fine work from a driving lineout eventually gave Dorian Jones a shot at goal, the No 10 slotting a penalty after 11 minutes to give his side the lead.
But it was short lived because their opponents hit back immediately when fly-half Simon Humberstone drew his side back level with a penalty of his own.
And Ponty nearly took the lead when elusive wing Lewis Williams set off on a great run only to be thwarted close to the try-line.
But Keys second row Dan Hodge was penalised for being offside and their opponents drove second row Craig Locke over from a driving lineout for a try.
Humberstone missed the conversion but his side were 8-3 up after 19 minutes.
There were danger signs for the Gwent Valleys side when Ponty started to run then ragged as gaps started to appear out wide.
Keys did pull themselves together however and went on the offensive and they were rewarded for their efforts with a penalty but Dorian Jones’ effort was just short.
They had another opportunity to close the gap with another penalty but full-back Steffan Jones slipped and the ball barely made it off the ground.
He was off target with another attempt soon after in the 32nd minute, Keys spurning nine potential points.
They dominated the second quarter but crucially failed to make any impact on the scoreboard.
Wing Elliot Jones looked as though he might open up the Pontypridd defence only for referee Wayne Davies to penalise Keys for blocking.
Humberstone made them pay when he slotted a long range penalty to extend their lead to 11-3.
Keys hammered away at the Ponty line in the closing minutes of the half as they went in search of a score their efforts deserved, powerful centre Aled James making a great run, but their opponents held firm to lead by eight points at the interval after they turned Greg Woods’ men over again.
Keys started the half brightly and should have done better when they had an overlap but Steffan Jones’ pass went into touch.
Pontypridd made a rare foray into the Keys 22 and showed how clinical they were when Humberstone dropped a goal to make it 14-3 after 49 minutes.
And they were given a big let off soon after when Humberstone missed a kickable penalty.
A huge error by Steffan Jones cost his side a great chance to get back into it when he put a penalty touch finder over the dead ball line.
It summed up Keys’ day as they struggled to break down a Ponty side hardly in top form and probably still feeling the hangover from their epic British and Irish Cup semi-fina; defeat to Leinster A last week.
The match was settled in the 60th minute when centre Gavin Dacey finished well to grab Ponty’s second try, Humberstone converting to make it 21-3.
A lovely finish by replacement wing Nathan Trowbridge, who scored in the 2012 final, gave Keys hope, the conversion going wide however.
A superb run down the touchline by Keys openside Scott Matthews opened up the opposition but his pass was knocked on just metres from the try line.
Keys were unlucky not to be awarded a try in the 70th minute when excellent work by wing James Cordy-Redden looked to have brought his side right back into it when he hacked through to touchdown near the posts but the television match official deemed the ball had gone forward from centre and captain Leon Andrews.
It was a decisive call, had that it been allowed Keys had the momentum to go on and win it.
Cross Keys: Steffan Jones, Elliott Jones, Leon Andrews (capt), Aled James, James Cordy-Redden (Phil Williams 74), Dorian Jones (Nathan Trowbridge 53), Rhys Dyer (Ryan James 51), Richard Cornock (Luke Garrett 64), Darren Hughes, Craig Gould (Anthony Lott 46), Danny Hodge (Tom Lampard 63, Henry Palmer 73), Jevon Groves, Reuben Tucker (Ieuan Cross Keys scorers: Tries – Nathan Trowbridge (65), Conversions –, Penalties – Dorian Jones (11)
Pontypridd: Geraint Walsh, Lewis I Williams. Gavin Dacey (Aled Summerhill 77), Aled Summerhill, Aled Summerhill,. Dafydd Lockyer (capt), Matthew Nuthall, Simon Humberstone (Dai Flanagan 78), Joel Raikes (Luke Crocker 72), James Howe, Aled Morris, Keiron Jenkins (Joe Jones 70), Craig Locke, Chris Dicomidis, Jordan Sieniawski (Owen Sheppeard 66), Wayne O'Connor, Dan Godfrey.
Replacements: Lloyd Williams, Liam Belcher,
Pontypridd scorers: Tries – Craig Locke (19), Gavin Dacey (60), Conversions – Simon Humberstone (60), Penalties – Humberstone (12) (37), Drop goal – Humberstone (49)
Referee: Wayne Davies (WRU)