By: Paul Hopkins
Swansea all but assured themselves of survival in the Principality Premiership with a hard fought victory over Cross Keys.
It was almost great start for the All Whites as a powerful break by lock Jay Williams forced the visitors into conceding an early penalty, but fly half Steffen Williams missed his effort at goal.
A missed tackle by winger Carwyn Penny saw winger Ryan Griffiths race down the wing up to half way, but a poor grubber kick handed the visitors possession.
Keys counterattacked through centre Tiaan Loots and winger Rory Budina, but Swansea turned the ball over and Steffen Williams sprinted through the middle, finding Joe Thomas in support. The centre chipped through but was deliberately tackled without the ball by scrum half Owain Leonard, who was promptly yellow carded for a professional foul.
Swansea looked to make the man advantage count and full back R Rhys Williams came to within a metre of scoring, before his side lost possession forward near the try line.
A skilful step inside on the wing by Penny set up a Keys attack, but the Whites successfully disrupted play on the other wing.
The visitors were full of enterprising rugby, led by full back Leon Andrews, but more often than not the Keys attacks resulted in a turnover.
Superb handling skills by Griffiths caused panic in the Keys’ defence and captain Damian Welch was given a warning on behalf of his team. Flanker Garin Price stole the lineout and raced 40 metres upfield, but was unable to get a scoring pass out to his support men. The Swansea forwards were penalised for diving over the top though and fly half Jacob Botica kicked to the corner.
Welch took the lineout and his pack rolled forward, earning a penalty as the Whites defended from an offside position. Botica again kicked to the corner and both centre Adam Jones and Welch came close to scoring, before Leonard swept quick ball out wide for Andrews to score in the corner. Botica’s conversion fell short of the posts.
Leonard tried to snipe through a gap at the ruck as the visitors continued to attack at will, but Botica was forced into a drop goal from deep, which he skewed wide of the posts.
Half-time:- Swansea 3 Cross Keys 5
It was a decent start to the second half for Swansea as Scrum half Chris Morgans hacked forward a loose ball from a defensive scrum, forcing Budina into a hurried clearance to touch.
Loots made a half break and Price was brought down on the twenty-two, but Swansea were able to clear long.
Jay Williams stayed on his feet in the tackle under pressure as the home side looked to build an attack, but Loots comfortably fielded R Rhys Williams’ high kick, although he was bundled into touch.
The visitors were penalised for offside at the ruck and replacement fly half Phil Jones chipped to the corner, but Keys stole the crucial lineout and cleared.
Jones sprinted through the middle, but was stopped by an ankle tap, although the Whites managed to recycle ball, before Thomas raced home to score under the posts. Jones converted.
Swansea looked to drive upfield from inside their own twenty-two, but gave away a penalty. Botica turned down the kickable chance to chip to the corner. It proven the wrong decision as the visitors spilled the ball forward at the lineout.
A superb move involving replacement full back Dylan Fidler, Botica and Leonard saw the visitors inject pace in their backline, but a handling error brought a premature end to the move.
Replacement full back Tom Ham profited from a quick offload out wide as he raced into the Keys twenty-two. Jones tried a grubber kick, but was unable to regather over the line. Instead play was brought back for a penalty to the home side and lock Tom Lampard was yellow carded.
The Whites looked to rub salt into Keys’ wounds late on and Thomas almost spotted a gap in the defence, but was brought down on the twenty-two.
In the dying seconds a powerful scrum by the home side earned a late penalty and Cross Keys’ losing bonus point vanished with the swing of Jones’ boot.
Full-time:- Swansea 13 Cross Keys 5
Tries:- Joe Thomas (62)
Cons:- Phil Jones (63)
Pens:- Steffen Williams (10), Phil Jones (80+5)
Tries:- Leon Andrews (36)
Yellow cards:- Owain Leonard (10), Tom Lampard (75)
Venue:- St Helen’s
Weather:- Clear, 9C
Man of the match:- Morgan Morris
15 R Rhys Williams (rep: Tom Ham 71)
14 Ryan Griffiths (rep: Gareth Rees 52)
13 Mike Evans
12 Joe Thomas
11 Nathan Trowbridge
10 Steffen Williams (rep: Phil Jones 45)
9 Chris Morgans
1 Richard Murphy (rep: Tom Northy 55)
2 Ifan Phillips (rep: Paul John 41)
3 Greg Cunniffe (rep: Greg Cunniffe 55)
4 James Ratti (rep: Sam Kiley 77)
5 Jay Williams
6 Morgan Morris
7 Duane Eager (rep: Charlie Davies 41)
8 Jon Fox ©
16 Paul John
17 Tom Northy
18 Alex Jeffries
19 Sam Kiley
20 Charlie Davies
21 Tom Ham
22 Phil Jones
23 Gareth Rees
Cross Keys team:
15 Leon Andrews (rep: Dylan Fiddler 41)
14 Rory Budina
13 Adam Jones
12 Tiaan Loots (rep: Mason Williams 77)
11 Carwyn Penny
10 Jacob Botica
9 Owain Leonard
1 Taylor Hansen (rep: Scott Hoskins 65)
2 Rhydian Jenkins (rep: Gary Carpenter 65)
3 Nicky Thomas (rep: Richard Cornock 54)
4 Damian Welch ©
5 Tom Lampard
6 Elis Hopkins (rep: Joe Thomas 70)
7 Garin Price
8 Ieuan Jones
16 Gary Carpenter
17 Richard Cornock
18 Scott Hoskins
19 Scott Andrews
20 Joe Thomas
21 Dylan Fidler
22 Iwan Burgwin
23 Mason Williams