12:13pm Thursday 3rd October 2013
By Iwan Gabe Davies
EBBW Vale head coach Jason Strange is calling on his table-topping side to keep improving and insists they won’t be taking Gwent rivals Blackwood lightly this Saturday.
The unbeaten Steelmen leapfrogged Cardiff Met last weekend as the Swalec Championship’s new leaders after an impressive 27-9 bonus point win away over the students from leafy Cyncoed.
Their five-pointers came through captain and lock Damien Hudd, wing Wes Cunliffe, flanker Ronny Kynes and a penalty try while outside half Ian Smerdon and replacement Carl Meyer kicked nine points between them.
It was a victory which saw Cardiff Met reduced to 14 men after 20 minutes when their flanker Tom Hall was sent off for a tip tackle.
Blackwood travel to Eugene Cross Park this weekend after suffering a 56-10 mauling at home to the Welsh Rugby Union’s North Wales development side RGC 1404 last week.
While Strange was delighted with his side’s performance against Cardiff Met – their fourth league win out of four this season – he knows it will count for nothing if they aren’t focussed on Saturday’s derby.
“It was a fantastic win last week against a very decent Cardiff Met and one under difficult circumstances because the penalty count was 23-9 against us – as well as three free kicks,” he said.
“But the players showed great composure and character which was really pleasing – it’s a privilege to coach this team.
“The key thing for us is that we keep evolving and improving, as both coaches and players.”
He added: “It doesn’t matter about last week because against Blackwood, it’s always a physical game and they are a club with a good tradition and values.”
The Steelmen are looking to nurture young talent, as well as strengthen bonds with sides in the area, and their development side beat neighbours Beaufort, who play in Swalec Division Five, 45-5 at home on Tuesday night.
“It was really pleasing to see a number of youngsters of 18 and 19 who have come through Ebbw Vale schools and look at a few boys on trial from local teams,” Strange said.
“There was a good crowd there and we want to keep building relationships with local clubs like Beaufort.”
Pontypool are on a high and are third after their 32-23 bonus point win over Bonymaen but face a tough trip to face RGC 1404.
Newbridge will be buoyed by their convincing 38-20 home victory over Bridgend Athletic and look to build on it when they travel to Llanharan.
Saturday's Swalec Championship fixtures (all kick-offs 2.30pm): Bargoed v Beddau, Bonymaen v Tondu, Bridgend Athletic v Tata Steel, Ebbw Vale v Blackwood, Llanharan v Newbridge, Narberth v Cardiff Met, RGC1404 v Pontypool.
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