By Rob Cole

NEWPORT head to Sardis Road tomorrow evening hunting an eighth straight bonus-point win in the Premiership but head coach Ty Morris has warned of a severe Pontypridd backlash.

The last time the two teams met at Newport Stadium it turned into a rout, with the home side running in eight tries without reply in a 54-3 triumph.

Morris believes that defeat, and abject performance, will be uppermost in the minds of the Ponty players in the return fixture.

“They will be a much different team at home, and I’ve told the players to expect a severe backlash after what we did to them earlier in the season,” said Morris.

“We want to continue doing what we’ve been doing, and we’ve picked a strong team, but in this league anyone in the top six can beat anyone else.

“There will be no room for complacency, and we need to keep on winning to stay on course to finish in the top two to secure a home semi-final.”

The fixture could be Newport’s last competitive trip to Sardis Road for a while because Ponty have opted against entering next season’s new Elite Domestic Competition.

A Thursday night game means Black and Ambers talisman Matt O’Brien is available to play and Morris is delighted the way things have worked out for his highly influential outside half.

They had hoped to have him free from his duties as backs coach at the Dragons for up to 60 per cent of matches, but it is getting closer to 80 per cent.

The attacking intent inspired by O’Brien has carried them into second place in the Indigo Premiership table and they can not only close the 15-point gap between themselves and table-topping Llandovery, but also move clear of third placed Ebbw Vale, who are level with them on 70 points.

Their rivals face each other on Saturday in the semi-finals of the Premiership Cup in Aberavon while the other tie pits Merthyr against Swansea in Bridgend.

With two games in hand on both the Drovers and Steelmen, another full house of points at Sardis Road would do very nicely for Newport, and be a big boost ahead of the derby clash with fourth-placed Cardiff at Rodney Parade on Saturday, March 9.

“Consistency is the name of the game and we’ve built up great strength in depth. We had two full teams going at each other in training this week, fighting for a place in the side. That has really kept things competitive,” added Morris.

For the second game running the Cardiff University wing Iwan Prys-Jones is included among the replacements.

The former Wales Sevens sensation is still only 20 and played in five World Series events when he was still a teenager.

A product of Ysgol Glantaf, he played for Cardiff U16 and U18 and made the Academy at the Arms Park. He made six appearances for Pontypridd in the 2021-22 season but hasn’t played much rugby this season.

“We are delighted to be able to give him a chance. He got incredible footwork and great speed,” said Morris.

“He got a couple of minutes at Merthyr, and we hope to be able to give him a longer run at Ponty. He is exactly the sort of player we are here to help as they seek a second chance to break into the professional ranks.”

Dragons loosehead Josh Reynolds returns from a pectoral muscle injury to make his first Newport appearance of the campaign.

Newport: Jac Lloyd; Elliot Frewen, Jon Morris, Chay Foster-Smith, Lloyd Lewis; Matt O’Brien, Dafydd Buckland; Josh Reynolds, Henry Palmer, Nathan Evans, Rynard Landman, Josh Skinner, Rhys Jenkins, Josh Reid, Ben Roach (captain).

Replacements: Tom Workman, Wade Langley, Garin Harris, Elliot Ferriman, Kyle Tayler, Che Hope, Lewis Bates, Iwan Pyrs Jones.