THE Dragons hope to reap rewards of a mouth-watering, big pressure Gwent showdown between Newport and Ebbw Vale in the semi-finals of the Premiership on Saturday evening.

The Black and Ambers welcome the Steelmen to Spytty Park in the play-offs (kick-off 5.15pm) after both clubs enjoyed superb regular seasons.

Newport were pipped to top spot by Llandovery after winning 21 of 24 games. They head into the derby on a 14-game winning streak, the 11th of those a dramatic late win at Ebbw thanks to Elliot Ferriman’s try.

Jason Strange’s men narrowly missed out on the play-offs last season but finished third with 18 wins - including one at Spytty Park - and a healthy gap to those below.

With Pontypool also having a fine campaign, albeit one that tailed off for a sixth-placed finish, plenty of promising Gwent prospects have flourished by becoming important parts of Premiership squads.

“There is some value in young players having training blocks but I’ve always been a fan of boys just playing, whatever the level,” said Dragons head coach Dai Flanagan.

South Wales Argus: PROSPECTS: Morgan Lloyd on the run for Pontypool with Newport's Che Hope in pursuitPROSPECTS: Morgan Lloyd on the run for Pontypool with Newport's Che Hope in pursuit (Image: NCR Photography)

“We’ve seen the progress made by the likes of Joe Westwood, Che Hope, Harry Rees-Weldon, Morgan Lloyd, Sam Scarfe, Dylan Kelleher-Griffiths. That’s through game experience, and winning.”

Plenty of academy talent has come through under Ty Morris in Newport, where Dragons backs coach Matt O’Brien pulls the strings from fly-half.

Wales Under-20s captains Ryan Woodman and Harri Ackerman were prominent figures last season and centre Westwood, scrum-half Hope, wing Oli Andrew, lock Nick Thomas and flanker George Young have been a part of this season’s title challenge.

Westwood previously played for the Steelmen but Ebbw have largely focused on their own core of players this season with a smattering of youngsters.

Powerful Wales Under-20s wing Rees-Weldon and Kobi Rees have been with Ebbw while Owen Conquer’s impressive performances earned a Dragons deal, plus Six Nations action alongside Rees-Weldon.

Former Dragons fly-half Evan Lloyd, older brother of up-and-coming scrum-half Morgan, has also been training with Flanagan’s senior squad.

“I have a good relationship with Jason and understand where they are as a club but that relationship will continue to grow through the Elite Domestic Competition next season,” said the Dragons boss.

“We have three really good clubs in the region and my plan is to get to more training sessions next season to observe our players’ behaviour and leadership. You learn a lot from just watching them.”

Flanagan and his coaches will watch closely on Saturday night as young talents experience a big occasion, with one side then having a final to relish either at Llandovery or at home against Cardiff.

“I think back to my career and the finals at semi-pro level with Pontypridd are games that you remember,” said the former fly-half.

“They are invaluable experiences for kids with the nerves, the energy and excitement.”

An extra 200 standing tickets have been made available for the game, with supporters able to stand on the perimeter of the ground but not on the terrace due to safety issues with the barriers.

Tickets for the all pay game are available at with seating and standing available.