1st XV Match Preview V Cross Keys (h) Sat 18/01/2014 

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by Glyn Barlow

This Saturday sees the final round of the B&I Cup pool stages in the shape of the visit of Cross Keys from South Wales.

Following Leinster A’s win over Moseley last week they are assured of progressing to the Quarter Finals despite the outcome of this weeks fixtures. While Moseley cannot progress further Keys hopes are kept alive as they could potentially secure one of the two pool runners up places available. Standing on 14 points currently Keys cannot catch the two teams, Bristol or Leeds who head pool 5 but are within a bonus point win of overhauling teams sitting second in the other pools. While a number of other results have to go their way you can be sure Keys will be looking for four tries and a win at Billesley, which should promise an entertaining game.

It’s always a welcome occasion when Moseley host a team from Wales, as there has been a long association between the club and sides from the Principality. Currently the Gwent team stand fourth in the Welsh Premiership with an 80% win rate, and second in the B&I Cup pool ahead of Moseley. In cup action Keys have beaten Ealing twice and were victorious over Moseley at Pandy Park in October 20 – 16.

In the last week Keys have strengthened their squad by the addition of scrum half Owen Jones, full back Ryan Lee and Phil Sargent in the back row. They join key Keys players Dorian Jones at fly half, back row Adam Powell and second row Danny Hodge.

If Moseley are to succeed on Saturday they need to ensure they have a better start than in the first encounter where they allowed Cross Keys to build a 20-3 half time lead despite a large share of territory and possession. Based on the recent trip to Leinster the evidence suggests that Moseley should be able to avoid this as they managed to contain a strong Leinster A team for three quarters of the game.

A trip to Ireland is never going to throw up an easy fixture and following a long journey involving trains and boats the team acquitted themselves admirably running last season’s champions close for the second time this season. Mike Penn celebrated a welcome return from injury with a well taken try. New signing Greg Charlton will have rued his yellow card on his debut but considering the significant step up in leagues we should forgive him and look forward to seeing how he develops.

It will be interesting to see how the coaching team approach this fixture. With the pressure off the team there is an opportunity to try out a more expansive game, although they will also have one eye on building momentum for the following week’s league clash against Ealing. Balancing this against a run of tough league fixtures during February however may suggests it’s a good time for resting some key players. The selection meeting this week isn’t going to be an easy one.

Whatever the team selected we should expect the usual competitive, exciting match Anglo Welsh encounters invariably deliver, and a fitting first game at home in 2014.