How close do you like your Gwent derbies? Personally I like it when Ebbw are 40-0 up by half time, but that just never happens, certainly against such well-coached, well-balanced and capable opposition as Cross Keys. This was a full-blooded, muddy, muscle-and guts-encounter that could have gone either way until Josh Lewis’s delightful break for a try 7 minutes from time that added to his earlier penalty brace – the second from half way – to take Ebbw clear at 11-0.
Whatever you may think about the new model Premiership and its mid-season split – and I’ve yet to hear anyone outside Westgate Street in favour – Ebbw’s priority is to defend their title, and the only way to have a chance was to finish in the top 8. A win would be enough, but even a loss or a draw would do, provided Cardiff didn’t beat Bedwas. But what if Cardiff lost but still gained a bonus point? Or two bonus points? And what if Ebbw drew with Keys, but scored four tries? Aaarghhh! It was all pretty complex, with more perms than an 80s disco in RT’s.
Keys fly half Josh Prosser missed an early penalty shot from 40 metres out but Josh Lewis made no mistake 20 minutes later, converting a penalty won by the scrummaging prowess of the Ebbw pack. Excellent tactical kicking by Dai Jones kept Keys pinned back as Ebbw played it like a cup match. When Keys did attack, Ebbw’s defence was immense, and skipper Damien Hudd was magnificient in setting the example which his teammates followed. It was 3-0 at half time, and remained so until ten minutes before the end when Lewis thumped over his second penalty from half way. Four minutes later, with Ebbw pressing hard and Keys infringing as they defended bravely, Lewis burst through for a try near the posts. His conversion was wide, but it didn’t matter. Cardiff had lost, Ebbw had won and, as all those league points earned since September were reset to zero, the Steelmen’s title defence began in earnest.
There were plenty of standout performances for the home team with Hudd, Harri Keddie and Rhys Clarke prominent, Jonathan Davies again impressing, Ronny Kynes at his all-action best, Max Williams putting in an energetic cameo, and all six front row fowards – Ross Jones, Joe Franchi, Gethin Robinson,, Ian George, Jonny Bowen and Robbie Sevenoaks – laying an excellent scrummaging platform. Man of the Match Dai Jones and his half back partner Lewis exerted considerable control, Dan Haymond never wavered under the high ball, the new centre pairing of Dai Langdon and Gareth Maule looked very promising and the wings, Nathan Preece and Craig Duncan were solid defensively and looked to get into the game at every opportunity.
The next Premiership game will be against somebody, either home or away, some time in February. Probably.
Finally, some kind words for referee Mr. Craig Evans who handled the game very well indeed and contributed to an enjoyable, if tense, afternoon.
The Ebbw team was:
Dan Haymond, Nathan Preece, Gareth Maule, Dai Langdon, Craig Duncan; Josh Lewis, Dai Jones; Ross Jones, Joe Franchi, Gethin Robinson; Jaonathan Davies, Damien Hudd (capt); Rhys Clarke, Ronny Kynes, Harrison Keddie.
Subs: Jonny Bowen, Ian George, Rob Sevenoaks, Max Williams, Dawid Rubasniak, Chris Thomas, Ryan Gardner, Srdan Majkic.
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Os oedd Glynebwy i gael cyfle amddifyn eu teitl yn ‘Bencampwyr’, roedd rhaid iddynt orffen hanner cyntaf y tymor yn yr ‘wyth uchaf’ cyn i’r Uwchgynghrair gael ei rannu’n ddau am yr ail hanner. Felly, roedd rhaid curo Cross Keys. Wedi dweud hynny, tasai Bedwas yn curo Caerdydd, basai lle Glynebwy yn y ‘top 8’ yn sicr, dim ots am ganlyniad y gêm yn erbyn Keys.
Mae gemau rhwng Glynebwy a Keys yn dynn, bob amser. Dydy cefnogwyr ddim yn gallu ymlacio yn yr haul ar y banc tan y chwiban olaf, a fel ‘na oedd hi ddoe.
Roedd maswr Cross Keys, Josh Prosser, yn anlwcus gyda chic cosb wedi 3 munud ond, wrth i’r gêm mynd yn ei blaen, roedd blaenwyr Glynebwy’n fwyfwy amlwg, a’u sgiliau yn y sgrym yn ennill cyfle i Josh Lewis sefydlu mantais i’w dîm ar ddiwedd y chwarter cyntaf. 3-0 oedd hi, 3-0 oedd hi ar yr egwyl, a 3-o oedd hi tan y 10 munud olaf. Roedd blaenwyr Glynebwy yn rheoli’r sgrymiau a’r sgarmesoedd rhydd, ac roedd Seren y Gêm, mewnwr Dai Jones, yn cadw Keys ar y troed cefn gan gicio’n ddeallus.
Sgoriodd Lewis gyda chic cosb o 50m deng munud cyn diwedd y gêm a wedyn, gyda blaenwyr Glynebwy yn pwyso’n drwm ar amddiffyn yr ymwelwyr, creuodd y maswr fwlch yn nghanol y cae ac aeth drwodd am gais gwych ar bwys y pyst. 11-0 oedd y sgôr, Glynebwy’n fuddugoliaethus ac yn barod, erbyn hyn, i ddechrau amddiffyn y teitl o ddifrif.
Diolch yn fawr iawn i’r ddau dîm am brynhawn cyffrous, ac i dafarnwr Mr Craig Evans am berfformio’n wych mewn sefyllfa lle roedden ni i gyd ar bigau’r drain!