Swansea signed off at St. Helen’s with their sixth straight win in the league despite a brief scare midway through the second half. Nicky Thomas continued his outstanding form with a second man of the match performance in a row as the Whites backs and forwards worked in tandem. It was an emotional eighty minutes for Head Coach Anthony Clement who was able to celebrate his final home match in charge with a victory.
The opening exchanges were evenly matched with Nicky Thomas and Jonathan Williams trading penalty goals. However it was the visitors who grabbed the first try after Leigh Bevan’s chip over the top was intercepted by winger Gareth Williams who raced in to score from the halfway line. Jonathan Williams missed the conversion.
Nicky Thomas cut the gap to just two points after Cross Keys were adjudged to have killed the ball. A superb break by Nicky Thomas resulted in a try for flanker Ben Lewis who powered through to score under the posts. Thomas converted.
Offside in defence gifted Cross Keys a penalty chance but Williams was unable to take advantage, missing from in front of the posts. Ryan James kept the ball in play and managed an almost impossible offload to David James who controlled the ball with his knee and raced in to score under the posts. Williams converted.
Swansea were awarded a penalty immediately after the restart as Williams spoke out of turn to referee Phil Fear. Nicky Thomas failed with the attempt from the halfway line though. Excellent breaks from Bevan and Jonathan Hooper almost resulted in a try but Richard Payne was unable to get his pass away.
On the half-hour mark, a well timed delayed pass by David Watts sent Payne over for a try under the posts which Nicky Thomas converted. Six minutes later, a storming 40-metre run by Martin Roberts nearly sent in Lewis but the pass was deemed forward.
Half-Time:- Swansea 20 Cross Keys 15
Cross Keys refused to lay down and claimed the first score of the second half after a superb break by replacement David Price, who took advantage of weak tackling, to send over Gareth Turner. Jonathan Williams converted. Offside in the Cross Keys defence gave Swansea a penalty and Nicky Thomas chipped deep into the corner. Richard Hibbard peeled off the ruck and powered over in the corner with Thomas superbly converting. Keys hit back through captain Ben Watkins who stole a poor Hibbard lineout and fell over the line. Jonathan Williams converted to take the visitors back into the lead.
Five minutes of ill-discipline by the visitors turned the game on its head as firstly Watkins turned from hero to villain, being yellow carded after committing a dangerous tackle and then flanker Gerient Gladwyn was red carded for an off the ball incident.
Swansea took advantage of the extra two men after a superb break through the middle by replacement Chris Shelmerdine was well backed up by Nicky Jones who sprinted down the wing, and chipped high into the middle before being bundled into touch. The chasing Roberts grabbed possession and crashed over for a try. Nicky Thomas converted.
A chip through by Nicky Thomas forced the visitors to backtrack and take the ball over their own line. The Whites pack then forced their counterparts to raise the scrum and were awarded a penalty try. Nicky Thomas converted. The Whites almost added a sixth try after good work by Shelmerdine and Lewis, but the supporting Watts was unable to take the pass.
There were many glimpses of champagne rugby from the All Whites but the coaching staff will be concerned at the side leaking four tries, the majority of which were the result of missed tackles. If Nicky Thomas can continue this form into the new season he will almost certainly be knocking on the door of the regional side.
Full-Time:- Swansea 41 Cross Keys 29
Venue:- St. Helen’s, Swansea
Weather:- Sunny, 22C
Referee:- Phil Fear
Competition:- Principality Premiership
Swansea Scorers:- Nicky Thomas (2 Pens, 5 Cons), Lewis (Try), Payne (Try), Hibbard (Try), Roberts (Try), Penalty Try
Cross Keys Scorers:- J. Williams (Pen, 3 Cons), G. Williams (Try), James (Try), Turner (Try), Watkins (Try)
Swansea Team:- 15 L. Bevan (rep: C. Shelmerdine) 14 J. Hooper 13 Nicky Thomas 12 R. Payne 11 N. Jones 10 D. Watts 9 M. Roberts (rep: D. Pittard) 1 L. May 2 R. Hibbard (rep: D. Colclough) 3 C. Mitchell (rep: C. Williams) 4 I. Evans (rep: D. Lloyd-Jones) 5 M. Collins 6 M. Popham (rep: H. Singh) 7 B. Lewis 8 S. Edwards (rep: D. Blyth)
By Paul Hopkins