EBBW Vale and Cross Keys return to Principality Premiership East action today intent on improving their record of just two wins each so far this season.

In truth, given the league’s revamped format for 2017/18, finishing in the eastern conference’s bottom two places – which they currently occupy – wouldn’t be a total disaster.

The Steelmen and Keys know that if things stay as they are then when east and west converge in late December, the gap to the top teams could definitely be breached.

Based on where they finish in their regional groups, clubs will take anything from one to eight points into the second half of the campaign when all 16 teams play each other once.

However, like winning becomes a habit, so too does losing, and there have been more reasons to jeer than cheer for both sets of supporters since the end of August.

And while making up a six or seven-point deficit is by no means out of the question, both Ebbw and Keys will want to find their form soon to give themselves a fighting chance of league honours.

Ebbw, champions in 2016, host Bargoed at Eugene Cross Park this afternoon, three weeks after their 54-5 thrashing away to leaders Bedwas.

A fortnight earlier, the Steelmen had won in Cardiff, but they were totally outclassed by Ian Gardner’s men, leaving head coach Lee Davies and his squad to contemplate their next move.

They beat Bargoed on the opening day of the season, but today’s visitors have shown they are not to be taken lightly, with wins on the road at Keys and Newport following that early setback.

Winger Steff Thomas, centre Dom Franchi, fly-half Lewis Dennett and scrum-half Dai Jones get starts, as do lock Rhys Clarke and number eight Josh Jacas.

As for Keys, they entertain Merthyr at Pandy Park on the back of a disappointing home loss to Newport.

Like Ebbw, the break for the British & Irish Cup arrived at a good time for Keys, who are one point above their Gwent rivals in the standings.

Keys make five changes to the side that started the 21-12 reverse to Newport.

Backs Barney Nightingale and Lloyd Lewis are on Wales Sevens duty so Nathan Trowbridge and Lewis Barnett come in.

Up front there are starts for Will Griffiths and Richard Cornock at hooker and tighthead respectively, and Scott Andrews makes his first appearance of the season as he comes into the second row.

Elsewhere, frontrunners Bedwas welcome Pontypridd, in second, to Bridge Field, while Newport played Cardiff in the Welsh capital last night.

Premiership player of the month Steffan Jones returns to the Bedwas starting XV with Lewis Evans dropping to the bench.

Fly-half Jones is one of nine changes head coach Gardner makes as his troops look to consolidate top spot.

Meanwhile, in the Championship, unbeaten runaway leaders Pontypool are home to Cardiff Met today and Trebanos make the trip to Newbridge.

While Pooler have won all eight of their games to date, Newbridge sit seventh after three victories and five def-eats.

Bedwas (home to Pontypridd): A Bramwell; G Gasson, R Wardle, A Williams, M John; S Jones, T Rowlands; D Preece, A Rees, R Hutcherson, G Edmunds, C Hudd, J Richards, G Lee (capt), D McGuigan. Reps: B Toms, E Shipp, C Budgen, A Waite, D Rogers, L Crane, M Callow, L Evans.

Cross Keys (home to Merthyr): L Andrews; M Powell, L Barnett, P Williams, N Trowbridge; J Prosser, J Leadbeater; C Hewlett, W Griffiths, R Cornock, T Lampard, S Andrews, J Skinner, S Matthews (capt), A Powell. Reps: R Jones, L Smout, G Carpenter, D Mock, T Basham, D Richards, R Pritchard, C Nicholls.

Ebbw Vale (home to Bargoed): D Haymond; S Thomas, D Franchi, D Langdon, T Fricker; L Dennett, Da Jones; R Jones, R Francis, R Sevenoaks, L Randall, R Clarke, C Regan, R Kynes (capt), J Jacas. Reps: J Franchi, J Harries, J James, K Parker, O Jones, C Lewis, Do Jones, W Talbot-Davies.

Newbridge (home to Trebanos): L Hudd; R Evans, S Williams, A Jones, W Cunliffe; S Veall, O Clemett; I George, C Tarrant, C Hicks, J Duffy, A Symons, C Francis, L Morgan, M Williams. Reps: M Kavanagh, A Isgrove, R Cornwell, G Lucas, P King, E Reese.

Pontypool (home to Cardiff Met): J Malson; M Thorley, D Robinson, C Gullis, J Thomas; K Meek, M Luckwell; A Coundley, J Jeune, O Drake, B Egan, C Gregory, M Herbert, C Attwell, C Watson-Boycott. Reps: TBC.