A strong looking Keys forward unit took up the early initiative, making huge yardage into the Ponty half. A hapless knock-on of a pass near the line was deemed worthy of a penalty try for Cross Keys, the score converted by full back Gethin Worgan with just five minutes gone.
Ponty were pinned back in their own half, defending against the pile-driving forays of the home team, putting their bodies on the line in defence. Another big driving maul, advancing at a rate of knots, took the Keys pack right up to the line, home scrum half Gareth Betts following up with a try, converted by Worgan. A rare incursion by Ponty into the home half allowed full back Jason Pocock to drill over a penalty to open his team’s account. Ponty were now at least competing the game, attempting to spread the ball wide, but settling for another Pocock penalty from forty-five metres out, to put points on the board.
Stealing morsels of line out possession off their opponents’ throw, Ponty were now maintaining a good field position, full back Pocock stepping up to slot over another penalty to keep them in contention. The first half was ending on a far more competitive note than it began, with Ponty scrapping for possession in the loose to battle every inch of territory. An injury to Rhys Shellard saw him replaced by Lee Evans, Ponty going into the interval trailing by 14pts to 9.
Having withstood an early second half charge from Cross Keys, Ponty edged their way upfield, attempting to open up the game. Their plans were thwarted as the Keys struck back on a counter offensive, once more piling on the pressure in the Ponty twenty-two. Some stalwart defending in the face of the home team’s concerted drives kept the Ponty line intact.The game was now being played exclusively in the visitors’ half, and prop Gerald Cox sin binned for infringing off side. Ponty were soaking up a huge amount of pressure, but doing so successfully, as Ryan Harford came on for Lee Evans to contest the scrummages.
Spending an eternity camped on their own line, Ponty performed heroics in defence to stem the tide of Keys attacks. Despite being a man down, the Ponty pack now took up the challenge, driving into the home half to break the Keys stranglehold, now into the final quarter of the match. With Cox and Evans back on, Ponty maintained some forward momentum, led by the charges of no 8 Dan Godfrey. As home flanker Ben Watkins was sin binned for killing the ball, Jason Pocock hoisted over a long range penalty, pulling Ponty back within two points, with a tense finale in prospect.
It was Cross Keys however who took up the initiative, a wide angle penalty from Worgan sailing wide of the mark, following a period of pressure. Carl Thomas now came on for Paul John, and Ryan Harford for Geraint Liddon, as Ponty remained on the back foot, defending their own twenty-two. In a moment of high drama, winger Chris Clayton intercepted to race three quarter the length of the field for a crucial try, converted by Jason Pocock. In a nail biting finish to the game, with Ben Phillips and James Connors coming on as injury time replacements for Duane Goodfield and Chris Martenko, Ponty defended against a concerted home offensive. The Ponty defenders once more excelled themselves with some crunching big hits, securing a vital away win by 14pts to 19, following a truly heroic performance.
15.Jason Pocock. 14.Chris Clayton. 13.Tom Riley. 12.Morgan Stoddart. 11.Gary Williams. 10.Richard Langmead. 9.Paul John. cpt. (Carl Thomas)
1.Gerald Cox. 2.Duane Goodfield (Ben Phillips). 3.Geraint Liddon (Ryan Harford). 4.Chris Martenko (James Connors). 5.Grant Harrington. 6.Wayne O’Connor. 7.Rhys Shellard (Lee Evans / Ryan Harford). 8.Dan Godfrey.
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