3:54pm Monday 31st March 2014
By Chris Kirwan
AFTER putting a spanner in the works of one team's playoff bid Newport aim to damage Cross Keys' challenge for the Premiership top three at Rodney Parade tomorrow evening (kick-off 7.15pm).
The Black and Ambers were agonisingly close to beating fifth-placed Llanelli at Parc y Scarlets last Friday when they were denied by a last-gasp converted try.
Nonetheless it was a good response to the previous week's hugely disappointing 24-10 loss to bottom club Swansea at St Helen's.
Newport may be condemned to a mid-table finish but they will have a big say in the shape of the top three given that they play Keys twice as well as welcoming leaders Pontypridd and second-placed Llandovery to Rodney Parade.
"It will be a good test and after doing well on the road to Bridgend, Carmarthen Quins and Llanelli we need to produce at home," said head coach Sven Cronk.
"It was frustrating to draw at the death last weekend but it was a performance that shows things are coming together, albeit late in the season.
"There is a lot more clarity in our attack and the boys have really stepped up to the mark in defence.
"The squad have got things together and will need to be on their game tonight because you know what you get with Keys – a fierce battle at the set piece and the breakdown."
Fourth-placed Keys kept their challenge for the playoffs on track with a bonus point win at relegation-threatened Neath last Saturday.
Hooker Darren Hughes, lock Danny Hodge and centres Aled James and Leon Andrews crossed the whitewash at the Gnoll but a much better display will be needed to take the derby spoils this evening.
"We were poor and might have come a cropper against a top-end side," said Woods, whose side face a crunch encounter with third-placed Carmarthen Quins at Pandy Park on Saturday.
"Newport are always a tough side at Rodney Parade and we will have to step it up. Both teams will win their fair share of ball and the side that uses it best will come out on top.
"Changes have been made to our side and those that come in have to raise the bar ahead of the Quins game."
Keys bring in Wales Under-20s pair Angus O'Brien and Luke Garrett at fly-half and loosehead prop respectively.
- Cross Keys’ Swalec Cup semi-final against Llandovery will take place in Neath on Saturday, April 12 (kick-off 2.30pm)
EBBW Vale will be a win away from securing the Championship title if they beat Newbridge at Eugene Cross Park tomorrow (kick-off 7.30pm).
The Steelmen, who have won all 19 league games this season, are certain to secure promotion back to the Premiership but they will be mathematically clear if they beat 'Bridge tonight and Beddau on Saturday.
Tenth-placed Newbridge were thrashed 36-3 by Narberth at the Welfare Ground last weekend and could do with another win from their six fixtures to ease any lingering relegation fears.
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