EBBW Vale head coach Greg Woods believes the future is bright for this season after sticking with youth for the Premiership Cup clash with physical Merthyr.

The Steelmen have lost three games on the spin after starting the campaign with wins against today’s opponents and Pontypridd.

Last week they were given a 44-17 hammering at home by in-form Newport but Woods was able to take some positives thanks to their Dragons academy contingent.

“I was really pleased with our younger players in Connor Chapman, Joe Westwood, Joe Peard, Ben Moa and Ewan Rosser, they played superbly,” said Woods.

“Although it was a very disappointing defeat, the future is looking good with many of these boys making their senior debuts this year.”

Dragons wing Carrick McDonough on the charge for Wales Under-20s

Dragons wing Carrick McDonough on the charge for Wales Under-20s

Hooker Chapman, full-back Westwood, lock Peard and number eight Moa all start against the Ironmen while wing Rosser is on the bench with fellow Dragons prospect Carrick McDonough starting.

The pack will need to stand firm against Merthyr with experience coming from props Luke Garrett and Robert Sevenoaks, lock Dan Hill and back rower Alex Grey.

“Newport were deserved winners as any Gwent derby is won or lost up front,” said Woods. “We struggled in the set piece and that put us under constant pressure”.

“We need to regroup quickly as there is a huge challenge in Merthyr facing us this week. We need to tighten up our set piece and defence.”

While Ebbw are looking to get back on the horse, Newport are setting the pace thanks to a four-game winning streak.

The Black and Ambers moved top of the table thanks to their six-try win at Eugene Cross Park and are looking good for the top four and a spot in the quarters.

They play their second game at Spytty Park when they entertain Ponty, the only side to beat them so far this season.

Newport are boosted by the return of livewire full-back Dai Richards while Wales Sevens international Ben Roach is back at number eight after an injury in the warm-up at Eugene Cross Park.

Hooker Henry Palmer, lock Elliot Ferriman and flankers George Young and Josh Reid also get the nod up front.

Bargoed aim to make it three wins from three when they travel to Narberth in the Championship Cup.

The Bulls and Neath have started the competition strongly after winning their respective groups to progress to the second stage.

Bargoed have enjoyed home wins against Ystrad Rhondda and Maesteg Quins.

Bedwas and Cross Keys have home advantage in the Plate, hosting Ystalyfera and Tata Steel respectively.

The Bridge Field side suffered a 21-12 loss to Trebanos last weekend while the men from Pandy Park had a bye week.


Ebbw Vale (v Merthyr): J Westwood; D Howells, D Franchi, E Phillips, C McDonough; R Evans, J Harvey; L Garrett, C Chapman, R Sevenoaks, J Peard, D Hill, S Parsons, A Grey, B Moa.

Replacements: M Blake, J Harries, S Evans, E Doyle, L Young, C Hope, D Haymond, E Rosser.

Newport (v Pontypridd): D Richards, J Morris, Dafydd Smith, M O’Brien, O Andrew; W Reed, L Crane; J Jeune, H Palmer, G Harris, E Ferriman, J Skinner, G Young, J Reid, B Roach.

Replacements: M Dwyer, L Smout, L Jones, J Bartlett, R Jenkins, G Watkin, J Wright, G Gladding.


Premiership Cup, East Group: Ebbw Vale v Merthyr, Newport v Pontypridd, RGC v Cardiff.

Championship Cup: Narberth v Bargoed, Maesteg Quins v Ystrad Rhondda, Neath v Glamorgan Wanderers.

Championship Plate: Bedwas v Ystalyfera, Cross Keys v Tata Steel, Beddau v Trebanos.