The game kicked off in uncharacteristically glorious weather. Almost immediately, the home side scored a penalty through the boot of Michael Raikes; though RGC couldn’t hold onto the lead for long. An individual try by David Langdon was converted by Gareth David. Another 3 points put Cross Keys 10-3 ahead.
Knowing they had to get back into the game, RGC made several surges into the Cross Keys half, with a powerful run from Will Bown yielding a penalty for RGC. This descended into chaos as several brawls, with both XVs involved. The result was a yellow card to each team, Luke Cudmore for the home side and Rob Nash for Keys. Play continued, with Raikes scoring a resulting penalty to bring RGC to within a try of the opposition.
Trademark solid defence from RGC kept Cross Keys away from the try line and with both sides returned to a full complement, the game continued its fast-flow. RGC threw themselves back into the game, with a sharp break from captain Sean White leading to a penalty. Raikes put it over to leave the hosts trailing by just one point. After a fantastic build up and quick hands, RGC winger James Farrell scored a well-worked try, converted by Raikes to take the home side to a 16-10 lead. Cross Keys chipped away at this. David kicked a penalty to narrow the lead to three points. Some good defensive work from RGC’s captain was cut short by a trip from the opposing scrumhalf. Tempers flared tempers again and it was perhaps fortunate that the referee blew for half time shortly afterwards.
The opening of the second half was a static affair broken only by a difficult penalty kick from Raikes which drifted just wide of the uprights. This seemed to galvanise both teams and the game opened up once more. RGC matched their Premiership opponents for speed and strength and the game became a stalemate. After determined defence, RGC won a penalty to clear their line but Cross Keys hit back with some well constructed phases to reach the RGC line. Only a held up ball prevented a try. RGC dominated the resulting scrum, turned the ball over and White cleared.
Cross Keys continued to pressurise and were unlucky not to score; a penalty hit the cross bar. Stolen ball from a Cross Keys line out then gave the home side a territorial advantage and several minutes in the Cross Keys 22 which unfortunately they couldn’t convert to points. Cross Keys had several chances and breaks which were ground to a halt by typical ferocious RGC defence, which once again was a key component in their win.
An excellent result for RGC, proving that they can hack it in the Premiership; exciting days ahead for rugby fans in North Wales.
Match report by Kumari Tilakawardane