12:01pm Tuesday 24th September 2013
By Iwan Gabe Davies
SWALEC Championship holders Ebbw Vale are braced for what they anticipate could be their toughest league showdown of the season when they travel to Cardiff Met.
The students are in imperious form this season, topping the table after having picked up bonus point wins in all three games so far.
The Steelmen are second in the league, just one point behind, also with three victories and something has to give in Cardiff in Saturday.'s crunch clash
Vale secured a comfortable 41-3 triumph at home over Narberth last weekend while Cardiff Met toppled RGC 1404 26-12 in North Wales.
This weekend’s visitors have the huge incentive of promotion to the Principality Premiership to play on Saturday to go with retaining the title they won in the Swalec Championship’s inaugural season.
And Vale’s head coach Jason Strange certainly won’t be taking their opponents lightly, the Steelmen winning just 12-9 in Cyncoed last October.
“Cardiff Met have started really well and I thought they were our most difficult opponents last season,” he said.
“Although we only lost one game in the league last season – that defeat away at Whitland was an absolute fluke – our toughest match, without any doubt, was the game away to Cardiff Met.
“Their strength is their conditioning levels and they are a very fit side.
“The big plus for us is that the majority of our players have been together for their fourth year.
“A lot of their continuity depends on where their players are in their studies but I think they’ve retained much of last year’s squad.”
Strange is happy with the way his side have performed so far but believes they won’t peak for another couple of months.
“I am pleased to have picked up 14 points out of 15 with a number of new faces in the squad,” he said.
“It was important we did that and I’m delighted with how quickly the new boys have gotten up to speed with everything and really bought into the club’s culture and work ethic.
“The potential we have is huge and even though we are winning, I think we are only playing to 60 to 70 per cent of our potential.
“I don’t think we will gel until Christmas when we find the backs find the right combinations.”
Vale second row Ashley Sweet is due to play a bigger role this weekend after missing the opening two victories against RGC 1404 and Bargoed after getting married.
The ex-Wales Under-20s lock did come on as a late replacement in the home win over Narberth last weekend.
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