THE last time Ebbw Vale welcomed Pontypool to Eugene Cross Park the pair were battling for Premiership survival.

Today it’s a tussle between a side setting the standard in the Championship and another struggling to come to terms with life in the second tier.

The Steelmen have made a fine start to the season as they aim for a hat-trick of titles following back-to-back Division One East successes.

They have beaten Glamorgan Wanderers and Narberth with bonus points but had to be content with a three-try victory against Tata Steel last week.

The side that they will field this afternoon would probably have the edge on the XV that took to the field against Pooler in 2010.

On that occasion they were indebted to an all-action display from loosehead Aaron Coundley , who will be on the bench for Newport Gwent Dragons in Limerick this evening. Once again they will be looking for the forwards to make the difference with the platform being laid by the front row of Ross Jones, Mathew Williams and Robert Sevenoaks, allowing lock Ashley Sweet and flanker Ronny Kynes to make an impact around the park.

“I’m really happy with how our season has gone so far,” said head coach Neil Edwards. “We’ve got a younger group this season and they are learning quickly. This is our biggest game so far and the boys are looking to put a marker down.

“We are looking forward to a big performance and carrying on the good work so far, because we have built week on week.

“It will be interesting to see what Pontypool have got and it’s important we keep the performances rising because we’ve got another massive game against Newbridge next week.

“But first we are concentrating on Pooler and the boys know that they need to play well, because our development game (against Bargoed) in midweek showed that our squad is strong.”

After a summer of strife Pooler have, as expected, struggled at the start of the campaign.

A solitary bonus point against Beddau on opening day is all they have managed from their three fixtures.

Newbridge welcome Tata Steel to the Welfare Ground and their coaches and supporters could probably do without a repeat of last weekend’s success.

’Bridge found themselves trailing 30-3 at Narberth before a remarkable comeback saw them heading home with a bonus point victory, but only after their hosts missed a last-minute penalty.

Blackwood suffered a big disappointment last weekend when they were beaten 21-20 by Glamorgan Wanderers in Ely.

Their hosts had made a shocking start to the season – and are tipped to struggle – but edged past the Glan-yr-Afon Park outfit thanks to a late pushover try.

Blackwood return to Gwent this weekend when they host Narberth, and head coach Matthew Veater will be demanding that his charges make up for both their loss at the Wanderers and their home loss to Llanharan in round two.

Today’s other fixtures: Bargoed v Bridgend Athletic, Beddau v Cardiff Met, Bonymaen v Glamorgan W, Whitland v Llanharan