CROSS Keys were unable to make it a British and Irish Cup double over full-timers Connacht Eagles after slipping to a 31-16 reverse in Athlone.

Given that qualification was already highly unlikely before their trip over the Irish Sea, Keys travelled with a skeleton squad that included a number of individuals playing out of position and three Dragons academy debutants.

The Pandy Park outfit were beaten finalists last season but had already given up hope of overhauling runaway Pool Four leaders Newcastle, who duly sealed their place in the knockout stages against Newport yesterday afternoon.

Nonetheless, Dorian Jones, a 10 playing out of position on the wing, gave the visitors hope of an unlikely victory when he crossed the whitewash with fly-half Steffan Jones adding the extras for a 16-14 lead.

However, the Eagles took the spoils – and earned revenge for a 17-12 defeat at Pandy Park seven days earlier – thanks to a pair of interception tries, leaving Keys to concentrate on their league efforts.

The Pandy Park outfit, who sit fifth in the Premiership, return to league action on Saturday at Aberavon.

They finish their British and Irish Cup campaign in January when they make the short trip to Rodney Parade to take on Newport before hosting Newcastle.