PONTYPOOL'S quest to reach the final four in the Indigo Premiership has been dealt a hammer blow after they were deducted two points by the WRU Competitions Committee, writes Rob Cole.

The sanction came in the wake of their inability to field a front row for the game against RGC on December 2. The club appealed against the deduction but were unsuccessful.

They remain in fifth place but are now three points outside the play-off places having played one game more than fourth-placed Cardiff and two more than third-placed Newport.

It puts even greater emphasis on this weekend’s home clash with Merthyr, who could overtake them if they can summon up a win at Pontypool Park, where the home side have lost their last two games. Leighton Jones’ side have also lost four of their last five matches.

Newport, meanwhile, will be back at home to face Aberavon after playing away in their last four matches.

The last time they enjoyed home comforts was when they lost 28-20 to Ebbw Vale on November 18 but they will be hosts for their next three.

South Wales Argus: Newport boss Ty MorrisNewport boss Ty Morris (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

“It will be great to be back home, and it is a big opportunity for us to push on with three games in a row at Newport Stadium,” said Newport head coach Ty Morris.

“We know that Aberavon will be a tough one for us this weekend and then we welcome Carmarthen Quins and RGC.

“Given Pontypool have just been deducted two points, it is a chance for us to increase the gap between us and them.

“I feel for them a bit because we were in a similar position to them earlier in the season with so many injuries in our front five.

“It’s at times like that you have to rely on a network of contacts at other clubs to help you get through it.”

Morris has already spoken to former Dragons lock Rynard Landman about extending his availability and, with the Dragons playing at home on Sunday, it means Newport should be able to have Matt O’Brien back on playing duties against the Wizards rather than coaching the pros.

Ebbw Vale have the toughest test over the weekend as they head to the home of league leaders Llandovery for a battle between the top two teams in the league.

The Steelmen are the only side to have beaten the reigning champions to date this season and they would go top if they can complete the double at Church Bank.

They are currently two points behind but the Drovers have two games in hand. Third-placed Newport are nine points behind their Gwent neighbours, but with three games in hand.

Premiership: Bridgend v Pontypridd, Llandovery v Ebbw Vale, Neath v Cardiff, Newport v Aberavon, Pontypool v Merthyr, Swansea v RGC.

Championship Cup: Bargoed v Llangennech, Bedwas v Brecon, Ystrad Rhondda v Cardiff Met.

Championship East: Beddau v Glamorgan Wanderers, Newbridge v Penallta, Treorchy v Rumney.