It pays to talk. Or does it? After Cardiff’s third verbal lapse, again incurring the wrath of the referee, in as many matches the penny still hasn’t dropped. Welsh referees, 2007 version, are not great conversationalists. Hot on the primeval chant that allowed Swansea a second attempt at a match winning conversion kick and then the ill-advised comment that caused a penalty to be reversed against Llandovery (and another three points on the scoreboard), we now had a loose tongue leading to another penalty reversal..
Though not a goal-kicking opportunity it did allow Cross Keys to make a rare second-half visit to the Blue & Blacks’ 22. From the resulting lineout Ryan Price was yellow-carded and, once again, a 14-man effort was required for the next 10 minutes. Ah, the yellow card fever! Jamie Roberts, an unlikely miscreant, had already been sin-binned midway through the first half after racing back to recover a Keys’ kick through and apparently killing the ball. A marginal decision. By the end of a fairly turgid 80 minutes penalties vis-à-vis yellow cards again had an illogical pattern: the Keys were whistled up most times - and Cardiff picked up the yellow cards.
But, undeniably, Cross Keys deserved to win. They struck early with two tries in nine minutes and then held on for over an hour. Despite regularly pinching Keys’ lineout throws - here, James Down and Chris Stamatakis were outstanding - the Blue & Blacks failed to capitalise on their set-piece superiority. In the loose, it was a different story. Will Thomas’ pack were far more effective in the contact situations. What their backs lacked in imagination their forwards made up for in honest endeavour - and fly-half Ryan James provided a safe pair of hands behind them.
Appropriately, it was outstanding hooker Gary Horrigan who scored their first try. It was a real sucker punch from the first lineout as he played the old one-two at the front, throwing-in, taking the quick return pass, and diving over in the corner…5-nil after four minutes. ‘Sucker’ was not the word that sprung to mind five minutes later from another lineout near Cardiff’s corner. This time the Keys set up the driving maul. When it was stopped, probably illegally, a penalty try was awarded. The only factual observation to record is that there had been no warning about collapsing mauls - and it was the first penalty, of any description, of the match. An interesting call.
So, with James’ simple conversion, the Keys had, one way or another, been gifted a 12-point start. On the gluepot pitch, admirably made playable by local elbow grease during the morning, it was a big gap. Cardiff chipped away at it with some success. Despite Roberts’ sin-binning, they prevented any further scoring against them. Craig Evans kicked a close-range penalty goal to reduce the interval deficit to 3-12. With the benefit of an irregular wind on the restart, there was cause for hope.
In the 54th minute the backs at last clicked. Lightning-fast lineout ball from Down on the right was the perfect platform for text-book passing, Roberts burst through the middle and Nick Gill squeezed over in the left corner. That completed the scoring. Neither side had goal-kicking opportunities, though Keys did opt for a couple of kicks to be put into Cardiff’s 22. It was anyone’s game until the yellow card was brandished again for Ryan Price in the 65th minute. As he left he shook his head. Elsewhere in the team, hopefully, the tongues had stopped wagging.