NEWPORT claimed the Gwent derby bragging rights at Rodney Parade and hammered another nail into the coffin of relegation-threatened Cross Keys, writes Guto Davies.

Going into the game, host club Newport were in a comfortable mid-table position, but Cross Keys were already staring relegation in the face, two off the bottom and a full 17 points adrift of the safety zone.

It was Newport who ultimately claimed an emphatic 43-24 victory but had to stage a late rally in the final quarter to do so.

Conditions were perfect for open, running rugby but both teams made a cagey start to the contest, neither try-line threatened during the first fifteen minutes. A turning point came as Newport back rower Josh Skinner was sin-binned. Keys took full advantage and claimed two tries in a six-minute period, firstly as the ball was moved wide for winger Rory Budina to cross, then, following a series of drives, flanker Chris Johnsey barged over from close range, both scores converted by Jacob Botica.

The game was often scrappy, knock-ons and turnovers adding to the excitement as Newport fought their way back into contention.

Keys winger Budina was then shown yellow for impeding a scoring opportunity.

Home pressure finally told as winger Elliot Frewen was worked into an overlap to dive over right on the corner flag, registering an interval score-line of 5-14.

The Black and Ambers struck again straight from the restart, playing advantage to send Frewen over for a second opportunist try, converted by Geraint O’Driscoll.

The game was fast and loose with Keys next to score following a break by Tiaan Loots, Rory Budina going over from a wide attack with Botica converting. He then extended the visitors’ lead with a well aimed penalty.

The final quarter belonged exclusively to Newport who stepped up the gears to come from behind with a five-try haul.

Centre Chay Smith jinked over, then outside half Geraint O’Driscoll stretched over from close range, and converted both tries. Replacement Matthew Reed powered over twice from the base of attacking scrums, his tries divided by one from Jon Morris following a dynamic counter attack. Reed’s first effort was converted by the reliable O’Driscoll.

The Black and Amber blitz had left Cross Keys in disarray, with the likely prospect of Championship rugby next season.

Newport: Jon Morris, Brandon Wood, Chay Smith, Tom Pascoe (Haydn Simons), Elliot Frewen (Duan Thomas), Geraint O'Driscoll, Tom Lucas (Ryan James), Lewis Smout (Matt Prosser), Henry Palmer (Evan Whitson), Garin Harris (Tom Piper), Joe Bartlett, Dan Partridge, Rhys Jenkins, capt (Lennon Greggains), Kyle Tayler, Josh Skinner (Matthew Reed).

Scorers: Tries - Elliot Frewen (2), Chay Smith, Geraint O’Driscoll, Matthew Reed (2), Jon Morris; Cons - Geraint O’Driscoll (4)

Cross Keys: Iwan Burgwin, Rory Budina, Tiaan Loots, Corey Nicholls, Srdan Majkic (Josh Adams), Jacob Botica, Josh Guy (Owain Leonard), Gary Carpenter (Scott Hoskins), Ellis Shipp (Rhydian Jenkins), Richard Cornock (Dafydd Cripps), Max Ayling, Tom Lampard (Scott Andrews), Damian Welch, capt (Joe Thomas), Chris Johnsey (Chris Francis), Garin Price.

Scorers: Tries - Rory Budina (2), Chris Johnsey; Cons - Jacob Botica (3); Pen - Jacob Botica.

Argus Star Man: Jon Morris (Newport)