IT’S Gwent derby day in the Championship this afternoon with a pair of clashes that pit those at the head of the table against rivals struggling at the bottom.
Division One East champions Ebbw Vale have made a terrific start to the campaign with five wins from five with only one bonus point eluding them.
The Steelmen, who top the table on the same points as Bargoed, were comprehensive 37-7 winners against Newbridge at Eugene Cross Park last weekend.
After beating Pontypool the previous weekend, they will be attempting to make it a Gwent hat-trick when they make the short trip to Blackwood.
The Glan-yr-Afon Park outfit haven’t made the best of starts to life in the inaugural Championship.
The first game went well enough – a hard-fought 19-16 win at Cardiff Met – but they have since suffered four reverses on the spin to drop to 11th place in the table.
Before last week the losses didn’t tell the whole story as their deficits were 11 points against Llanharan, one point against Glamorgan Wander-ers and three points against Narberth.
Their wins column could easily be more healthy but there could be no sugar-coating of a 38-9 thumping against Tata Steel seven days ago.
“We let ourselves down last week but this game against Ebbw Vale gives us a chance for retribution and for the players to get their pride back,” said director of rugby Matthew Back.
“It was a very depressed changing room after last week’s defeat – the players let themselves and the club down but they have an opportunity to put things right.
“I don’t think it gets any harder than this – Ebbw Vale are leaders and are playing well – but it’s at home and we played well as against them in pre-season. And we know that we have got 15 players that are more than capable of causing an upset.”
Newbridge suffered their first blip of the season at Ebbw Vale but can still be pretty pleased with their start, with four successes from five fixtures.
They sit in fourth and will be hot favourites to return to winning ways when Pontypool head to the Welfare Ground this afternoon.
Bottom club Pooler were desperately unlucky when suffering a 23-22 home loss to Bridgend Athletic last week.
They lost with the last kick of the game when a conversion clunked against the woodwork before dropping between the sticks.
Winless Pooler have also seen club captain Jamie Jeune return to the Premiership with Newport, though it remains a possibility that their front row could be bolstered by players on permit from the Black and Ambers.
Other fixtures: Bargoed v Llanharan, Beddau v Glamorgan Wanderers, Bonymaen v Tata Steel, Bridgend Athletic v Cardiff Met, Whitland v Narberth.