Newport ready for nervy encounter with Bridgend
7:01am Saturday 2nd November 2013 in Sport
THE SIGHS of relief will be palpable in one changing room at Rodney Parade at 4pm this afternoon, the other will be full of glum faces and perhaps the odd broken tea cup, writes Chris Kirwan.
Newport host Bridgend in a massively important fixture at the wrong end of the Principality Premiership.
It has been a shocking campaign for the ninth-placed Black and Ambers so far and the Ravens are also nervously looking over their shoulders.
Ebbw Vale appear to be cruising to the Swalec Championship title which means the team that finishes bottom of the top flight will be relegated.
Aberavon are currently propping everyone up but Newport and Bridgend have managed just one win apiece this season and are two and three points clear of the Wizards respectively.
The Black and Ambers' sole triumph came against Swansea at Rodney Parade and they will be hoping for more home comfort this afternoon.
Their back line looks exciting with experienced Dragons centre Ashley Smith tasked with bringing the best out of game breakers Tyler Morgan, Ashton Hewitt and Elliot Frewen.
But the tight five struggled in the thumping 48-14 loss to Llandovery last weekend and must provide plenty of quality front-foot ball.
The Black and Ambers welcome back all-action flanker Rhys Jenkins to the bench. The former Dragons Academy man has been sidelined since March 2012 with knee trouble.
Cross Keys are concerned with matters at the top of the table rather than steering clear of a relegation dogfight.
The Pandy Park outfit have made a solid start to the campaign and sit in sixth place with a game in hand on those above them.
If Keys can turn over struggling visitors Swansea this afternoon then they will be able to reflect on a fine first two months of the season while the action takes a fortnight break for Wales' Tests with South Africa and Argentina.
The coaches make three changes to the side that beat Bridgend last weekend, Aaron Bramwell returns at full-back, Rhys Jones shifts to centre from 15 and Angus O'Brien gets the nod at fly-half.
Newport (v Bridgend): G O'Driscoll, A Hewitt, T Morgan, A Smith, E Frewen, E Davies, J Leadbeater, D Pattison, D Rogers, G Robinson, Adam Brown, A Frampton, S Waldron, C Attwell, L Beach (captain). Replacements: J Jeune, J Greenfield, A Jeffries, M O'Brien, A Quick, D Franchi, O Griffiths, R Jenkins.
Cross Keys (v Swansea): A Bramwell, J Cordy-Redden, L Andrews (captain), R Jones, N Trowbridge, A O'Brien, R James, R Cornock, D Hughes, A Lott, D Hodge, O Hodge, R Tucker, T Lampard, A Powell. Replacements: N Buck, G Price, C Gould, S Matthews, R Dyer, S Jones, K Baller, E Jones.
Today's other fixtures: Aberavon v Llandovery, Cardiff v Carmarthen Quins (6.30pm)
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