The landmark achievement of a Welsh rugby player and ‘top bloke who deserves to be up with club greats’

Tommy Lampard will take a fresh guard after completing his 400 games and set his sights on the next towering landmark.

Saturday was a milestone for the hugely Cross Keys forward who started out with the Gwent club back in 2005.

The back-five player completed 400 league and cup outings for the Welsh Championship team, helping Keys to a 21-17 Welsh Rugby Union Championship Cup win over Bedwas.

He is now setting his sights on Richie Donovan’s post-war club appearance record.

“It’s a magnificent achievement by Tommy,” said team manager Mark Prangell.

“Richie actually played 411 times for the club but after he passed away last year we held his funeral on our pitch and so put up his record to 412.

“I think everyone thought it a great gesture except for Tom!

“Seriously, though, Tom has been a wonderful servant for us and is on course to pass Richie and set a new club record.

“When you consider how many players have played for us over the years, for Tom to have just Richie in front of him in the appearance stakes is huge.”

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It’s beyond doubt that Lampard deserves to be considered a Keys legend. After joining the club after a youth stint with Newbridge and then senior shifts with Pontllanfraith and Fleur-de-Lys, he settled down to become a central figure in the Pandy Park pack.

Many of his appearances have been at flanker but he has moved up to lock in recent times. Earlier in his career he turned out on the wing and also in the centre for the former Merit Table club. He is the current Keys captain.

“We’ve had old timers in the bar on a Sunday morning and when they pick their greatest Keys XVs of all time, Tommy is always one of those chosen,” said Prangell.

“And don’t forget: We’ve had players like Lloyd Burns, Toby Faletau and Jeff Squire play for us.

Tommy Lampard of Cross Keys wins lineout ball

“Tommy has won all the player of the year awards at various points, whether handed out by coaches, fellow players or supporters, and he’s also picked up the clubman-of-the-year gong.

“When our clubhouse was flooded by Storm Dennis last year, Tom was one of the first to turn up on the Monday. He had all his tools — he’s a self-employed tradesman — and worked all week at the club, helping out.

Flood waters engulfed Cross Keys RFC’s club house over the weekend

“He’s a true clubman and a top bloke.”

Lampard would have reached his quadruple century quicker but for Covid and, before that, a serious leg injury that sidelined him for an extended period.

He is in revered company in joining the 400 club.

After Donovan passed away last year, tributes came from far and wide, with Mike Ruddock saying the prop icon could have played Test rugby and Graham Price noting the Keys stalwart had been afforded such respect by the Pontypool greats from back in the day that they “used to punch him a minimum of five times a game”.

Before he died, ‘The Don’ urged Lampard to try to relegate him in Keys’ appearance list. “I spoke to Richard before he passed away and he told me to go for the record,” Lampard told the South Wales Argus.

“That was one of the last times that I spoke to him, so it would be nice if I could reach that as well, but I’ll have to take it a game at a time and see how I go.”

It seems a safe bet he will get there.

Experience counts and seasoned players learn to save on shoe leather, if not on what they contribute to a team.

Lampard, who helped Keys reach the final of the British & Irish Cup in 2012 and win the WRU National Cup in the same year, has no plans to call it a day, adding: “I am still enjoying it and it’s fun to see younger boys with real talent come through. It will be weird when I finally do retire but I don’t plan to do that yet.”

Prangell added: “He’s still playing well. He’s still a great example to younger players.”

There is still rarity value in reaching 400 games for one club at any level.

All who display such loyalty and staying power deserve immense respect.

Here’s to Tommy Lampard, whose sort embody the best in Welsh club rugby.

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