CROSS Keys ended Pontypool’s WRU National Cup hopes in a typically full-blooded quarter-final at Pandy Park two years ago.

Tomorrow sees the same ground host the two Gwent rivals again, this time with a place in the last eight up for grabs, as well as local bragging rights.

Keys will want a repeat of that 2017 triumph – they won 19-3 before losing to Pontypridd – while Pooler are hoping to avenge one of only two defeats that season.

Picking a favourite for the second-round tie (kick-off 2.30pm) isn’t as straightforward as some may think.

Pontypool boast an unblemished record in the Championship this term and lead the chasing pack by 11 points, putting them well on course for a play-off to win promotion back to the top flight.

On the other hand, Keys, while battling to avoid relegation from the Principality Premiership, have picked up back-to-back victories and have home advantage again.

There are also plenty of links between the two squads, with both set to field players who have represented each club, former Keys captain Scott Matthews, now at Pooler, being just one.

And, with a bumper crowd due to pack into Pandy Park, all the ingredients are there for another hugely competitive and possibly fiery encounter.

Keys head coach Morgan Stoddart won the cup as a player with Pontypridd in 2006, 12 months after being on the losing side against Llanelli.

“We’re looking forward to it,” he said. “Perhaps we’ll go out and play with a bit more freedom because there’s not the pressure of getting points to stay in the league.

“The league is our top priority, the cup is an added extra, something for the players to enjoy without the result affecting our league position.

“It will be a good occasion. I remember from two years ago that Pontypool brought lots of fans and it was a great day for us.

“I’m not sure who will be favourites this weekend, that’s a difficult one. They have obviously got a good team and a few good players. I think it will come down to who wants it most on the day.

“There should be a little bit of niggle, and they have a few former Keys boys in their squad which will add something to it.

“The boys who left Keys last summer will have a point to prove and everyone knows each other in both squads, so there will be some good individual battles.”

Pooler, who like Keys have won the cup once in their history, beat Cardiff at this stage of the competition two years ago, while 12 months on they saw off Carmarthen Quins before losing to Merthyr.

Promotion to the Premiership is again the Pontypool Park club’s aim, but they would also love to emulate the class of 1983, who sunk Swansea 18-6 in the final in Cardiff.

“Earlier this week, it was great to see footage of the atmosphere at the Arms Park after the club beat Cardiff in the National Cup in 2017,” said head of performance Rhys Dyer.

“The atmosphere the travelling Pooler fans created during and after the game that night is something I will always remember.

“If something similar could be recreated on Saturday, I know it would inspire the boys.”

He added: “In terms of our preparations for the game, nothing really changes.

“Whether it's a pre-season friendly, a league match or a game in the cup, our primary focus is always on us and how we can best prepare collectively and as individuals.

“We see each game as an opportunity to improve on our previous performance and that doesn't change when we come up against Premiership opposition.

“The cup holds a lot of happy memories for the club and we will travel to Cross Keys on Saturday eager to do ourselves justice.

“Be it independently or with the club, it is great to hear that so many Pooler supporters plan to attend the game.

“We are extremely fortunate to enjoy the support of such a loyal band of supporters and their support means a lot to the boys.”