IT was a case of third time lucky for Cross Keys after being too good for local rivals Ebbw Vale in a keenly contested Gwent derby, writes Iwan Gabe Davies.

After losing both their opening Premiership encounters to Merthyr and Bargoed, Greg Woods and Jonathan Westwood’s men silenced their critics with a gutsy performance against the Steelmen.

For Ebbw, there will be frustration after slumping to successive defeats after an opening day win away at Bargoed.

Keys got their noses in front after 15 minutes when stand-off Josh Prosser put them ahead with a penalty.

This came after wing Nathan Trowbridge nearly crossed for an interception try only to be hauled down just short of the line.

Vale skipper and openside Ronny Kynes killed the ball at the breakdown and was yellow carded.

The hosts made the extra man advantage count, scoring a lovely converted try through Trowbridge after a great run by scrum-half James Leadbeater and excellent support by lock Josh Skinner.

With only one team in it for most of the first half, Prosser slotted over another penalty to make it 13-0 after 34 minutes.

Ebbw fly-half Lewis Dennett was off target with a shot at goal from a scrum penalty and the half ended with Keys on top.

The Steelmen, who were gaining the upper hand at the set piece, started the second 40 minutes well but were unable to make much of dent because of the stiff resistance Keys were putting up in defence.

The visitors’ cause was being helped however by the Pandy Park side’s increasingly shaky lineout and scrum.

But when they did get their act together, Keys went 20-0 ahead through another converted try when the excellent Leadbeater tore through the visitors’ defence from a set piece in the Ebbw 22.

Vale hit back almost immediately when Kynes was driven over by his forwards for an unconverted try in the 59th minute.

They hammered away at the home side’s try-line and centre Srdan Majkic did well to finish in the corner despite some heroic defending.

Replacement back Dai Langdon’s fine conversion reduced the Keys lead to just eight points with three minutes to go.

At the final whistle, one of Keys’ unofficial anthems, the Urban Cookie Collective’s early 90s dance favourite The Key, The Secret rang out over the PA system at Pandy Park to celebrate a hard-fought victory.

Cross Keys: L Andrews; M Powell, L Barnett, P Williams (B Nightingale 77), N Trowbridge; J Prosser, J Leabeater; C Hewlett (L Smout 60), G Ellis, N Buck (R Cornock 16), T Lampard, J Skinner, L Davies (T Basham 66), J Thomas (M George 60), A Powell (capt).

Ebbw Vale: W Talbot-Davies; S Thomas, S Majkic, D Franchi, A Evans (D Langdon 56); L Dennett (C Hall 68), C Lewis (D Jones 56); I George (R Jones 29), J Franchi (R Francis 56), R Sevenoaks (J James 72); L Randall (J Davies 56), A Sweet; R Clarke (O Jones 71), R Kynes (capt), C Regan.

Cross Keys scorers: Tries – N Trowbridge, J Leadbeater, Conversions – J Prosser (2), Penalties – J Prosser (2)

Ebbw Vale scorers: Tries – R Kynes, S Majkic, Conversion – D Langdon

Referee: Dewi Phillips (Aberystwyth)

Argus star man: James Leadbeater