Keys cut to eleventh-hour shreds
AS far as entertainment goes this match was pure box office from start to finish but Keys will be kicking themselves for losing this five-star thriller.
After clawing themselves back into the game from a 21-11 deficit midway through the first half, they regained the lead with just over a quarter of an hour to go.
But two crazy yellow cards cost them dear as they surrendered their slim 29-27 lead right at the death.
Bridgend’s centre Gareth Howells kept his nerve to slot over a penalty with the last kick of the game after flanker Cae Trayhern offended in front of his posts.
Keys were left to rue the sin-binning of the day’s skipper and scrum-half Owen Jones and replacement flanker and club captain Rob Nash, who’d not long come onto the field.
Given their positions of responsibility and need to set an example, the pair really should know better.
Jones’ yellow card, to be fair to him, was far more clumsy than malicious after he managed to take out full back Tom Habberfield as he jumped to try to gather an up-and-under.
But Nash’s was unforgivable – he bashed a Bridgend player off the ball for no apparent reason as the pair chased a kick.
Their departures meant their team-mates had to toil even harder in the baking heat and in a game played at a punishing pace.
The home side play wonderful rugby, attacking from just about everywhere with a cavalier approach that can delight and infuriate their fans.
They were irresistible in the first half and had scored three tries in the first 20 minutes with some breathtaking rugby.
The Ravens cut Keys to shreds but the visitors clung and hung on in there thanks to Owen Jones’ well-taken early try and fly-half Steffan Jones’ penalties.
Bridgend’s fluency was affected, however, when No 10 Dan Griffiths went off injured.
And Keys were smarter in the second half when they sensibly opted for the old ball-up-the-jumper routine which reaped dividends with tries for excellent hooker Gerwyn Price and Steffan Jones.
They looked certain to pull off a remarkable comeback win and pressed hard for a knockout blow but Keys were, a little cruelly, denied their day in the sun.
Bridgend: T Habberfield, L Morgan, J Leyshon, G Howells, S Cullen, D Griffiths (L Ryland 39), T Grabham, K Dowding, A Ellis, O Williams (J Thomas 63), L Peers, K Maiden, A Hillier-Rees (J Vaughan 58), B Thomas (captain), L Probert (B Rose 75).
Scorers: Tries – Tom Grabham, John Leyshon, Arthur Ellis; conversions – Dan Griffiths (3); penalties – Gareth Howells (2); drop goal – Gareth Howells.
Cross Keys: L Andrews, R Lee (K Baller 66), L Williams (G David 71), N Williams (P Williams 58), M Johnstone, S Jones, O Jones (captain) (J Sollis 76), R Cornock, G Price, M Jones (I George 58), D Hodge, L Rawlins, R Peebles (R Nash 65), C Trayhern, T Lampard.
Scorers: Tries – Owen Jones, Gerwyn Price, Steffan Jones; conversion – S Jones; penalties – S Jones (4).
Referee: Wayne Davies.
Argus star man: Gerwyn Price.