Keys 22 Llandovery 15
A VITAL and hard-earned win by Keys at Pandy Park saw them halt a four-match losing streak and take Llandovery’s unbeaten record this season.
The victory knocked the Drovers off the Premiership summit and also saw the home side move up two places in the table to fourth.
It was a triumph Keys deserved, although they were outscored by two tries to one and fortunate that Llandovery missed three very kickable shots at goal.
On his return to his old club from the Newport Gwent Dragons, Keys outside-half Steffan Jones was looking to bolster his confidence after a difficult time with the region.
He had a mixed day. His place kicking was immaculate, with a 100 per cent return, slotting over five penalties and a conversion, some of them very tricky, for a 17-point haul.
But Jones’ tactical kicking was way off-colour and he bombed a 3-1 overlap in the dying minutes that would have made the game safe for Keys and denied Llandovery a bonus point.
Scotland’s autumn internationals are sponsored by EMC2, which is wonderfully ironic because it would take an Einstein to solve their problems – or Wales’ – for that matter.
Keys don’t have any problems in the brains department, they are well coached and were well led on the weekend by their superb openside Rob Nash, who has a superb work ethic.
The home side needed big performances from other key forwards like locks Dan Hodge and Tom Lampard, and they delivered by the truckload.
The game was watched by former Wales coach Gareth Jenkins, head of development and recruitment at the Scarlets these days, who must be thinking he could be doing a better job with the national side than the coaches in Warren Gatland’s absence.
He may have lost to Fiji in the 2007 World Cup, but at least his Wales could beat Argentina, something the current crop fell well short of doing a fortnight ago.
A fairly dour, although highly committed, first half saw Keys lead 9-8 at the interval thanks to three Jones penalties to a well-taken try by Llandovery wing Sam Soul and a successful shot at goal by James Garland.
The second half was a much better spectacle for the fans and Jones put Keys further ahead with another penalty early on.
Then in the 48th minute Lampard made up for his missed tackle that led to Soul’s try by scoring a sparkling touchdown of his own.
He did well to gather a cute chip kick by full back Gareth David before racing away, Jones adding the extras to give Keys a 19-8 advantage.
Jones’ fifth penalty saw Keys cruising but they let the Drovers back into the game when David went from hero to villain after a clearance on his own line was charged down.
It was the Soul man – Sam, that is – who pounced on the ball to score his second try of the game, replacement fly- half Cerith Rees nailing a difficult conversion.
Llandovery were suddenly back from nowhere and looked a real threat in the last quarter.
Keys held on to deservedly take the spoils and get their season back on track in a campaign blighted by injuries and the departures of backs coach Mark Ring and players Marc Jones and Rhys Williams.
Triumph came at a cost with wing Nathan Trowbridge leaving the field after just over a minute with knee ligament damage and blindside Rhys Peebles injuring his hamstring.
After the game the Pandy Park side’s director of rugby, Jonathan Westwood, was pleased with the hard-won victory.
"It has been a difficult few weeks and we had to post a win, it was as simple as that," he said.
"It was a little bit edgy at the end but the boys’ endeavour was outstanding.
"Llandovery were top of the league for a reason – they are a good side who are very competitive, so it was a good win."
Cross Keys: G David, K Baller, L Andrews, A James, N Trowbridge (L Williams 2), S Jones (D Jones 78), R James (R Dyer 57), R Cornock, G Price, A Lott, D Hodge, T Lampard, R Peebles (S Matthews 59), R Nash (capt), A Powell.
Replacements: Sam Parry, Ollie Hodge, Craig Gould..
Cross Keys scorers: Try – Tom Lampard; conversion – Steffan Jones; penalties – S Jones (5).
Llandovery: L Rees, C Knight, M Jacobs, J Roberts, S Soul, J Garland, R Walters, D Williams, L Lewis, A Jones, P Day, B Griffiths, S Miles, L Phillips (capt), L Kendall.
Replacements: D Howells, W Jones, M Harbut, N Aiono, T Ball, J Randall, C Rees.
Llandovery scorers: Tries – Sam Soul (2); conversion – Cerith Rees; penalty – James Garland.
Referee: Jon Mason.
Argus star man: Rob Nash.