Huw S Thomas reports:
The surge of optimism engendered by the 41-33 win over Maesteg was a thing of the past as Llandovery went down to heavy defeat at Pandy Park. Cross Keys so outplayed a listless and leaden footed Llandovery that the only surprise at the end of the day was how the Drovers had escaped so lightly against a side superior in all departments.
Director of rugby Jeremy Evans was honest enough to admit that the defeat was a serious set back after the promising opening against Maesteg. "The whole coaching team are hugely disappointed," he said. "We recognise that the boys under-performed badly but there is enough talent in the side to bring us back to winning ways. Our defence in all areas was poor and we will have to act swiftly to rectify this or we will be in real trouble. The one comfort that we can take out of the defeat was the courage of the side to keep their line intact for the last 35 minutes of the game and we will need to carry this on against Pontypool this week."
More organised at the line out, more forceful in the contact area and far quicker behind the scrum in both thought and deed, Keys looked a different class against a side that based on this performance looks set to struggle in the Premiership this season.
The tempo set by Keys forwards and backs alike continually put the Drovers under pressure and the writing was on the wall for the west Walians as early as the second minute when young Cross Keys lock Scott Marasco celebrated his debut with a try.
The Drovers defence behind the scrum was woeful and the Keys centre partnership of David Price and captain Gareth Turner had a field day as they slipped tackle after tackle to set up promising positions. Turner with two tries and wing Marcus Johnson with one touchdown plus a penalty and three conversions from ex-Wales full back Justin Thomas helped the Gwent team to get 29-0 up at the break.
When tries by Price and Thomas increased the lead to 43-0 just after the break, a cricket score was on the cards only for Llandovery to at last show some resolve and determination.
As desperate as the defeat would seem, there were some positives to come out of the last 35 minutes of the game as the Drovers managed to shut out the home side.
Young Dafydd Thomas at loose head prop lasted the pace better than many of his elders and so-called betters in the pack and was rated Llandovery's best player by Cross Keys coach Rob Beale.
Eighteen-year-old hooker Emyr Phillips played the last quarter with a zest and enthusiasm which was refreshing and back row replacement Dafydd Jones got stuck in with gusto.
Llandovery even created a few try scoring chances thanks to the openings made by scrum-half Iwan Mainwaring and there were useful contributions from replacement backs Ioan Davies and Gary Beaumont-Morgan.
But the relief of avoiding a 50 point drubbing was all the satisfaction that players, coaches and supporters could muster at the end of a bad day out in Gwent.