9:39am Friday 4th April 2014
AFTER four seasons of bossing the second tier of Welsh club rugby Ebbw Vale will finally secure their place back in the Premiership if they maintain their perfect season tomorrow afternoon, writes Chris Kirwan.
The Steelmen host struggling Beddau in the Championship and if, as expected, they make it 21 victories from 21 games then they will be promoted.
Ebbw’s rivals have long given up hope of catching them – in fact, some secretly admitted they were playing for second before winter had arrived – but the inevitability of the title triumph won’t diminish the size of the party at Eugene Cross Park.
After two Division One East triumphs on the spin and success in last season’s inaugural Championship, the Ebbw addicts have waited a long time for this moment.
By a quirk of fate, the Steelmen have invited their former players to watch the game for free and they won’t want relegation-threatened Beddau to be party poopers.
But the hosts will have to deal with the increased expectation and plenty of their squad will recall a similar situation in April 2012.
Ebbw would have secured the Division One East title with a home win but Newbridge made them wait by triumphing 19-16, bringing to an end a year-long unbeaten home record.
However, head coach Jason Strange is confident that the high standards set by his charges will ensure they get the job done this weekend.
He said: “We know that we need to put in a big performance against Beddau; this group has extremely high expectations and if we don’t play well but still get the win there will be disappointment in the camp. That speaks volumes.
“What seemed impossible four years ago has been made possible by the hard work of everyone at the club and especially the players.
“They have showed loyalty to the club and to each other by staying when it would have been easy to move on and accept other offers.
“It has taken us a bit longer than we hoped to get back because of factors out of our control (criteria and Premiership restructuring) but we are on the brink and I don’t think anyone will begrudge us this moment.”
Bottom club Blackwood have six games left to save their Championship bacon and desperately need to take the spoils against 11th-placed Tondu at Glan-yr-Afon Park.
Matthew Veater’s side have games in hand on Beddau and fellow strugglers Bonymaen but need to turn them into points.
There were encouraging signs when they led 13-10 against Pontypool last weekend but a red card for David Brake enabled their hosts to cut free and score 31 unanswered points.
Tondu have not won since February and Blackwood took the spoils 17-13 when the sides met in November.
After being overpowered by Ebbw Vale in midweek, Newbridge face another tough test when they travel to Cardiff Met.
The Welfare Ground outfit need one more win to ease any lingering fears of being dragged into the relegation scrap.
Pontypool have no margin for error if they want to overhaul RGC 1404 to finish as runners-up.
Pooler will probably need to win all seven games, starting with a tough trip to third-placed Bargoed this weekend.
Other fixtures: Bonymaen v Llanharan, Narberth v Tata Steel, RGC 1404 v Bridgend Athletic
© Copyright 2001-2014 Newsquest Media Group