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
RGC 1404 welcomed Enisei to Parc Eirias expecting a tough game from the Russian National Championship runners-up and receiving just that. Last week in a convincing win over the Royal Navy, RGC 1404 had the majority of possession. This week, the first ten minutes proved to be an entirely different story; the lion’s share of possession and territory went to Enisei.
From kick-off, it was apparent that the Russians would present a very physical challenge. Only strong RGC defence stopped the impressive Enisei from scoring in the first five minutes. For most of the first half, there was little fluidity to the game, despite the good pitch condition and clear weather. Although Enisei seemed to have parity in most areas of the game in the opening stages, RGC hit back to score a penalty through fly-half Michael Raikes. In reply, some tidy play from Enisei saw Dima Gerasimov kick a penalty for a deliberate knock 10 minutes in to level the scores at 3-3.
RGC soon found their feet and with a quarter of an hour gone some neat offloading saw RGC full back Ciaran Hearn score the first try of the game. Settled by this, the home team started playing the expansive passing game that the Eirias crowd have become accustomed to. They were unlucky not to score as a number of promising moves failed to result in a try.
Both teams spurned promising scoring chances close to the line, due in part to ferocious defending from both teams. RGC broke through the tough Russian defence a number of times, but couldn’t quite finish off the moves. Eventually, Enisei fought their way through to the RGC try line. A number of phases followed and after a scuffle on the line, Anton Rudoy scored Enisei’s first try. RGC struggled to break through the organised Enisei defence, but from a quick tap by scrum half White, RGC were awarded a penalty. Raikes scored to draw the scores level 11-11 at half time.
In the second half RGC hit back straight away. A brilliant break and support play from White, sent Hearn in for his second try. Raikes kicked the conversion to give the home team a 7 point lead. A yellow card for Enisei’s Pavel Butenko allowed a Raikes penalty to increased the RGC lead.
Not to be outdone, man-of-the-match Rudoy ran in a try under the posts after shrugging off several would-be tacklers, with the conversion added by Gerasimov. Both teams were now playing with much more invention and the game started to open up. Only a solid hit from Jack Moorhouse stopped Enisei running in an interception try, though they then scored with a penalty to level the scores.
In the end it was a Raikes penalty which brought the 24-21 victory to RGV after some hard-fought rucks. This was a game of two halves, the first belonging to Enisei and the second to RGC. In the end the home team managed to hold on to snatch a hard fought win against a well-drilled touring side. They continue their rich vein of form at Parc Eirias, once again proving that a strong defence can win games.