The Blue & Blacks never lost the lead after Rhys Shellard touched down just 28 seconds after the kick-off but they never came close to repeating their bonus point victory of a week ago. After Garry Horrigan added a second try as early as the 16th minute the finishing touches again deserted them as the game drifted towards an inevitable conclusion.
Both Keys' tries came from turnovers.The first, an interception by centre Carl Pocock deep in his own half when Cardiff had a two-man overlap, neatly capsulated the home side's clumsiness in attack. The second four minutes from the end when fellow centre Gareth Maule kicked through and wing Marcus Johnstone won the race to the bouncing ball in the corner, put Cardiff under unnecessary pressure in a match they had never looked like losing.
Once again Shellard and Matthew Veater were the 'go to' players in the Cardiff pack, though the outstanding contribution came from Craig Everett. As a ball carrier and tackler he was equally impressive but the encouraging signs shown by the pack only served to make the lack of vision behind the scrum more perplexing. The ball rarely went beyond the inside centre, making a mockery of the try-scoring reputations of Gareth Chapman and Ryan Howells and the international pedigree of Chris Czekaj and Rhys Williams.
Shellard's early strike came as he charged down a clearance kick by Leon Andrews and showed good footballing skills as he controlled the ball twice with his boot before picking up and diving over for the unconverted try. James Leadbeater (7th minute) and Gareth Davies (10th) then exchanged penalties before Horrigan's try finished off the best move of the match, started by Owen Ruttley up the right and the ball recycled to a huge overlap on the left. Another Davies penalty from point blank range completed a comfortable 16-3 interval lead.
His third success in the 49th minute stretched the lead to at least three scores but then Pocock's opportunist try exposed Cardiff's predictability in attack. With Keys' skipper Lloyd Burns sin-binned for hands in the ruck Davies kicked his fourth penalty and at 22-8 with time running out the result was all but settled. Then Johnstone's try and Andrews' booming touchline conversion gave the visitors hope of salvaging a late draw.
The Blue & Blacks, though, held on to complete a curiously downbeat victory.