Steelmen bid to prove Premiership pedigree by earning semi-final spot

IT'S been nearly a year since Ebbw Vale suffered a defeat but the Championship champions-elect know they need to produce their biggest performance of the season to stretch their winning run beyond 28 games, writes Chris Kirwan.

Tomorrow afternoon the Steelmen welcome Premiership title hopefuls Llandovery to Eugene Cross Park in the quarter-finals of the Swalec Cup.

If they fail to make the last four then that old cliché of having the consolation of concentrating on the league does not apply – the Championship is done and dusted.

Ebbw are a Premiership quality team and will be back in the top flight next season, probably at the expense of Swansea. They want to return as Swalec Cup holders.

Double winners Pontypridd were the last side to lower Ebbw's colours when Dai Flanagan's last-gasp conversion secured a 23-22 Swalec Cup quarter-final success on March 30, 2013.

Since then the Steelmen have beaten Bridgend Athletic twice, Cardiff Met three times, Blackwood three times, Llanaran twice, Glamorgan Wanderers, Narberth twice, Beddau three times, Bargoed twice, RGC 1404 three times, Pontypool twice, Tondu twice, Newbridge, Tata Steel and Bonymaen.

Ebbw have won all 18 Championship games this season with an average score of 40-8 and they have failed to bag a four-try bonus point on just two occasions.

Tomorrow, however, they host a Drovers side that sit third in the Premiership and are looking to be in the playoffs for a third successive season.

"It's going to be a massive challenge for us and one that the whole club is looking forward to," said former Dragons hooker Duane Goodfield, who is head coach Jason Stange's assistant.

"Llandovery are a top quality Premiership side with a style that is similar to the Scarlets; they are well coached, will look for a high ball-in-play time and have a strong and experienced pack.

"But we have been playing well and have come through a couple of close tests. This game gives the boys the chance to show that they can make the step up.

"It will be a great measure of our squad to see how they will come with the Premiership if we stay on track and win promotion.

"But there is more to this game than that, there is a place in the semi-finals at stake and the players will not need us to motivate them for this game."

Ebbw made the semi-finals two years ago when they drew against eventual winners Cross Keys at Rodney Parade only to be knocked out on try count.

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