PONTYPOOL boss Leighton Jones believes his side are rising to the challenge of a WRU National Championship title race, writes Chris Kirwan.

Pooler are favourites for a fourth successive crown, which this time carries the prize of automatic promotion to the Premiership.

They have enjoyed back-to-back perfect seasons of 22 victories and have continued the streak by going five from five this season ahead of tomorrow's trip to Ystrad Rhondda.

However, Pooler won't have things all their own way and are only leading the way courtesy of their five try bonuses compared to Bedwas' three, while Bargoed are just three points back after being held to a draw by Cardiff Met on opening weekend.

The students have also won all four games since sharing the spoils with the Bulls.

"We knew that this season would be tougher," said head coach Jones. "Of course it's nice to win the league but this challenge has led to a real focus in the squad.

"This won't be as easy as recent years and we will have to be on the money in every game because there are some tough teams.

"Bargoed are a really strong team, Bedwas have had some great results, Cardiff Met are always decent and Narberth will be there or thereabouts.

"There's a different feeling, a different edge and it's a different challenge but the boys have spoken about that and are up for it."

Pooler will be expected to go six from six at Gelligaled Park but last year's fixture, a 29-18 win, will ensure there is no complacency.

"We would have had no complaints if they had won," admitted Jones. "They are a decent team but we are prepared for what we will be up against."

Bedwas will attempt to keep the heat on Pooler when they travel to Trebanos.

Last week Stefan Sankala's men enjoyed a 38-13 win against Narberth at Bridge Field, with the Otters' efforts not reflected on the scoreboard.

Cross Keys prop up the table and bid for their first league victory since January when they entertain Tata Steel.

The Pandy Park side suffered a 46-7 loss at Bargoed last weekend and will be keen to get up and running to avoid being cut adrift in the battle against the drop.

Home games will be vital in Keys' bid against back-to-back relegations but Tata head east after a win versus Ystrad Rhondda last time out.

Former Dragons hooker Rhys Buckley rumbled over for a hat-trick for Bargoed last week.

The Bulls look to be hitting their straps and make the trip to Beddau.

Fixtures: Beddau v Bargoed, Cross Keys v Tata Steel, Narberth v Cardiff Met, Neath v Maesteg Quins, Trebanos v Bedwas, Ystalyfera v Glamorgan Wanderers, Ystrad Rhondda v Pontypool.