A purple patch for Cross Keys 5 minutes either side of half time looked to have set them up for a win on the all-weather pitch at Ystrad Mynach. At 14-0 down after 39 minutes, with Ebbw having scored tries by Nathan Preece and the lively Dawid Rubasniak, Keys looked out of it but a try in injury time by James Leadbetter, converted by Lewys Montague, made it 14-8. A minute into the second half, Ebbw’s hooker Joe Franchi received a second yellow card, and this was followed by tries from Adam Powell and Phil Williams to give Keys a 20-14 advantage, and the prospect of playing 14 men for the remaining 35 minutes.
Ebbw had completely different ideas though and their 7 men pack, with the ocasional addition at scrum time of Nathan Preece on the flank, took the game to their opponents. A penalty try for a series of Keys offences at 5m scrums gave Ebbw the lead back at 22-20, and a great backs move saw Jared Rosser cross wide out on the left for the bonus point try, giving Ebbw a 28-20 victory.
There was one moment of sublime skill from Mathew Williams: taking the ball in the outside half position in his own half, he put in the most exquisite touch finder deep in Keys’ half… and guess who was the first Steelman to arrive and prevent a quick throw? Yes, Mathew Williams. This epitomised the never-say-die commitment that saw Ebbw home, and warmed their supporters’ hearts on a bitter, frosty night.
The team was: Chris Levesley, David Williams, Nathan Preece, Iain Smerdon, Jared Rosser; Simon Veall, Tom Edwards; Ian George (capt), Joe Franchi, Robert Sevenoaks; Rhys Clarke, Daniel Horler; Cameron Regan, Dawid Rubasniak, Ethan Doyle.
Bench: Mathew Williams, Lloyd Bridges, Gethin Robinson, Damien Hudd, Ronny Kynes, Dai Jones, Dai Langdon, Daniel Haymond.
Many thanks to Newport Gwent Dragons, Abergavenny RFC, Nantyglo RFC, Oakdale RFC and Penallta RFC for allowing players to appear for Ebbw Vale in this match.