Gwent rivals ready to play out another battle royal
IF this afternoon’s meeting between Ebbw Vale and Newbridge is anything like last season’s clash then the supporters at Eugene Cross Park are in for a treat.
‘Bridge ended the Steelmen’s perfect home record with a powerful performance that also ensured their Gwent rivals had to wait to lift the Division One East trophy.
We are many months away from champagne and title celebrations but it’s a massive game game – a point reinforced by the man in the middle being international referee Nigel Owens.
Both teams head into this afternoon’s encounter with four wins from four and are likely to be challenging for the title along with current pacesetters Bargoed.
But despite sitting in third place, just one point behind the table-toppers, Newbridge are under no illusions that they need to go up a few gears this afternoon.
“It’s been a mixed bag for us so far this season,” said forwards coach Andrew Gibbs. “We’ve played well in patches but not for the whole 80 minutes, which has been very frustrating.
“I’d imagine that Ebbw Vale are still smarting a bit after last year but we can’t look back at that.
“All we are aiming to do is move on and improve because despite our four wins we are still short of what we are looking for.
“This is a great opportunity to put things right against a very good Ebbw Vale side.”
Ebbw assistant coach Jason Strange insists that revenge isn’t their prime motivation following last season’s loss on their own patch.
“We are focussed more on what’s going to happen than looking back,” said the former fly-half.
“It’s all about making sure we hit the standards that we set for ourselves and look after what we can control rather than putting too much emphasis on who we are playing.
“We are really pleased with where we are and seem to have carried our form on from last season.
“The boys that have come it have freshened us up and things couldn’t have gone much better, apart from maybe missing a bonus point against Tata Steel.
“But this is the biggest test so far. We are expecting a really physical battle and we are looking forward to it.”
It’s been a predictably tough start to the campaign for Pontypool following their turbulent summer.
They are yet to record a win and have notched a solitary bonus point, which was earned on the opening afternoon.
None the less, the progress of their inexperienced squad has pleased head coach Mike Hook.
But now he wants them to get up and running against a Bridgend Athletic side that have won just one of their four games.
“We expected the first month to be difficult but the boys are developing well,” he said. “They have learned an awful lot in the first four games but now it is time for them to show what they are made of.
“We have had some tough fixtures and have learnt a lot from some invaluable experiences, but now we need to be ruthless.”
Blackwood have had a mixed start to the campaign and will be keen to return to winning ways at Tata Steel.
All four of the Glan-yr-Afon Park outfit’s games have been tight but they have edged matters just one – against Cardiff Met in round one.
Last weekend they had to settle for a pair of bonus points after being pipped 35-32 at home by Narberth.
It could well be another nervy one this afternoon as Tata pushed Newbridge hard last weekend, though Blackwood will be determined to edge it after their recent narrow scrapes.