Wales On Sunday - - SPORT SUNDAY -

THE out­come of this game be­tween third-placed Merthyr and sev­en­th­placed Cross Keys was very much a re­flec­tion of those po­si­tions.

Slick of­fload­ing and rapid re­cy­cling were the keys to the home side’s open­ing try in the fifth minute with full-back Leon An­drews touch­ing down un­der the posts to pro­vide an easy con­ver­sion forl Josh Prosser.

The vis­i­tors coun­tered im­me­di­ately but, held up just shy of the Cross Keys line, they were forced to set­tle for a Matthew Jarvis penalty. Two penal­ties in quick suc­ces­sion saw the Iron­men opt for touch both times with the power of their pack set­ting up prop Nathan Trevett for the try.

Mo­ments later the home side were down to 14, No.8 Adam Pow­ell see­ing yel­low for a de­lib­er­ate knockon. Merthyr made the most of the re­sult­ing penalty, hooker Matthew Dwyer go­ing in for their sec­ond try.

The vis­i­tors were also a player short soon af­ter­wards, cen­tre Aaron Finches be­ing dis­patched to the sin­bin for a high tackle. EBBW Vale clinched their first Premier­ship East home win of the sea­son when their pow­er­ful pack took a firm grip in the sec­ond half, but bat­tling Bar­goed still made them fight all the way and staged a grand­stand fin­ish.

The turn­ing point came mid­way through the sec­ond half when the Steel­men were awarded a penalty try fol­low­ing per­sis­tent in­fringe­ments by the vis­i­tors at a scrum near their line.

Be­fore that, out­side-half Lewis Den­nett kicked a hat-trick of penalty goals, while full-back Dan Hay­mond slot­ted a fourth. Their star man was dy­namic hooker Rhys Francis, while pow­er­ful wing Toby Fricker also caught the eye.

Bar­goed’s points came from a 32nd-minute try by re­place­ment hooker Geraint Clarke, a brace of first half penal­ties from full back Matthew Lewis and an­other from out­side half Iain Smer­don in the fi­nal quar­ter. But flanker Grant Rogers and re­place­ment wing David Evans came des­per­ately close to scor­ing last-gasp touch­downs

Full-back Lewis gave the vis­i­tors an early lead when he kicked a CARDIFF ended a run of three con­sec­u­tive de­feats in the Prin­ci­pal­ity Premier­ship with a bonus-point win un­der the flood­lights against east ri­vals Newport at the Cardiff Arms Park on Fri­day.

Tries from Dan Fish, Ben White, Dafydd Smith and re­place­ment Ian Jenk­ins se­cured a de­served vic­tory for Steve Laws’ men while Henry Palmer, Harri Lang and Ryan James all went over for the vis­i­tors.

It didn’t take Cardiff long to break the dead­lock thanks to an off­load from man-of-the-match loose­head Rhys Carre who found full-back Fish, and he put Cardiff into an early lead, with Gareth Thomp­son adding the con­ver­sion.

Newport re­duced the deficit mo­ments later thanks to a penalty from Haydn Si­mons, how­ever, a hat­trick of penal­ties from Cardiff cap­tain Thomp­son gave the Blue and Blacks a 13-point lead at the break.

The game sprung into life after the in­ter­val with three tries within the space of eight min­utes. White went

A nicely-judged chip ahead from scrum half Justin James was grate­fully dived on by wing Stef An­drews to give Merthyr their third try and make the half time score 24-7 to the vis­i­tors.

The vis­i­tors’ bonus-point try, a sec­ond for An­drews, came barely a minute after the restart. Home skip­per Scott Matthews claimed his side’s sec­ond try in the 66th minute, but the flanker’s ef­fort was quickly fol­lowed by a try for Merthyr re­place­ment wing Kyle Evans.

A late in­ter­cep­tion try for wing Nathan Trow­bridge saw the home side within sight of a bonus point, but that fourth touch­down eluded them. CROSS KEYS: Tries: L An­drews, S Matthews, N Trow­bridge; Con: J Prosser (2) MERTHYR: Tries: N Trevett, M Dwyer, S An­drews (2), K Evans. Cons M Jarvis (3). Pen: M Jarvis. penalty, but Den­nett lev­elled the scores.

A touch­line flare-up ended with Vale prop Robert Sevenoaks and the vis­i­tors’ skip­per and prop Rhys Mor­gan be­ing sent to the sin-bin mid­way through the first half. Play was scrappy, but Lewis nudged Bar­goed 6-3 in front with a 23rd-minute penalty from 40 me­tres.

Bar­goed were en­joy­ing most of the ter­ri­to­rial ad­van­tage and they in­creased their lead nine min­utes later when re­place­ment hooker Clarke was awarded a try after a pow­er­ful for­wards surge by the Bulls. Lewis could not con­vert. Den­nett then added his sec­ond penalty goal for Vale with the last kick of the half to make the in­ter­val score 11-6 in Bar­goed’s favour.

But Vale’s pow­er­ful for­wards did just enough in the sec­ond half to clinch the win. EBBW VALE: Penalty try. Pens: L Den­nett (3), D Hay­mond. BAR­GOED: Try: G Clarke. Pens: M Lewis (2), I Smer­don. over first for the home side, which was con­verted by Thomp­son.

But the Black and Am­bers fought back al­most im­me­di­ately after 44 min­utes, with hooker Palmer crash­ing over for the vis­i­tors. Si­mons’ con­ver­sion then made it 23-10.

The hosts struck next to re­gain their 20-point lead, a sub­lime di­ag­o­nal ball picked out Smith who put the home side back in con­trol. Thomp­son, once again, was suc­cess­ful with the con­ver­sion.

Cardiff se­cured a de­served bonus point late on after substitute Jenk­ins went over to stretch the hosts’ lead even fur­ther, but Newport did con­jure up two late con­so­la­tions thanks to Harri Lang and Ryan James. CARDIFF: Tries: D Fish, B White, D Smith, I Jenk­ins; Cons: G Thomp­son (3), B Thomas; Pens: G Thomp­son (3). NEWPORT: Tries: H Palmer, H Lang, R James; Cons: H Si­mons, A Rob­son; Pen: H Si­mons.

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