8:43am Saturday 29th March 2014
CROSS Keys know that they will have to overcome a hungry, desperate Neath side if they are to keep their bid for the Premiership playoffs on track, writes Chris Kirwan.
The fifth-placed Pandy Park outfit are in a tussle with the Scarlets clubs of Llanelli, Llandovery and Carmarthen Quins for the two semi-finals spots behind table-toppers and champions Pontypridd.
Keys, who will face the Drovers in the last four of the Swalec Cup, have their destiny in their own hands but cannot afford to slip up against their struggling hosts at the Gnoll today.
They have already beaten Neath twice this season, 27-10 in the league and 23-17 in the Swalec Cup, but the Welsh All Blacks will not be lacking motivation as they are just five points above bottom club Swansea.
Keys will be looking for Dragons flanker Ieuan Jones to add some oomph in the ball-carrying stakes and for their pack, who have been playing well of late, to allow in-form fly-half Dorian Jones to pull the strings.
Sixth-placed Bedwas will be looking to keep the heat on the teams above them by winning their three successive games against struggling teams from the Ospreys region.
Bottom club Swansea visit Bridge Field this afternoon before encounters with Neath and Bridgend and head coach Steve Law will look for his pack to maintain their impressive form to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.
Cross Keys: J Cordy-Redden, N Williams, L Andrews (captain), A James, E Jones, D Jones, R James, R Cornock, D Hughes, C Gould, D Hodge, S Andrews, I Jones, R Tucker, A Powell. Replacements: L Garrett, H Palmer, A Lott, T Lampard, J Condy, O Jones, A O'Brien, N Trowbridge.
Bedwas: H Thomson, S Cullen, L Hudd, A Humberstone, R Budina, R Powell, R Downes, I George, R Hutcherson, M Pettit, P Rees, J Thomas, S Grainger (captain), J Sawyer, D Mattravers. Replacements: J Mills, D Preece, R Wilkes, J Davies, D Crimmins, L Crane, S Williams, S Thomas.
Ebbw Vale need just 12 points to secure promotion to the Premiership but the Steelmen want more than just the inevitable Championship title.
Jason Stange's team want to head back to the top flight on the back of a perfect season and it's so far, so good. Ebbw have triumphed 18 times from 18 fixtures and will look to extend that run at Tata Steel this afternoon.
At the other end of the table Blackwood are in dire need of some points in their tussle with Bonymaen and Beddau to avoid the drop.
Today the bottom club make the short trip to Gwent rivals Pontypool, who need to win to keep alive their hopes of finishing second.
Mid-table Newbridge aren't completely out of the woods but one more win should do it and they will hope to edge closer to safety with a success against Narberth at the Welfare Ground.
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