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Pontypridd In Positive Mood

Pontypridd In Positive Mood

Pontypridd travel to Vicarage Road on Sunday to face No 1 seeds Saracens in the PARKER PEN SHIELD quarter-finals with coach Lynn Howells adamant that the Welsh club and No 8 seeds will most certainly not be there just to make up the numbers.
Saracens have a galaxy of star names – French ace Thomas Castaignede is one of the two additional players they have registered for the knock-out stages – but Howells insists his underdogs are capable of springing a major surprise.
“We are a young squad but we are capable, if we play to our full potential, of causing an upset,” said the former Wales assistant coach. “It is not beyond us.
“If Saracens under-achieve and we get it right on the day, we can come away with the result. However, Saracens have so many fine players it is going to be a huge challenge for us.”
English clubs dominate the last eight of the PARKER PEN SHIELD with three of their five representatives earning home advantage for good measure and Howells is wary of his team stepping into unknown territory at Vicarage Road.
“Our players are used to competing against top opposition, they won’t be overawed,” he said. “But the fast playing surface at Vicarage Road will make a huge difference and be a big plus for Saracens – the only similar surface in Wales like that is at Swansea.
“Saracens are a well balanced side and we will also have to come to terms with the very physical way the game is played in England, big men carrying the ball with plenty of pace outside.
“It will be a sharp learning curve for our younger players but this is an opportunity for them to go out and express themselves.
“When you get to the quarter-finals it is all about a one-off occasion. It comes down to the side who performs on the day.”
And Pontypridd will travel on the back of a successful away day in the Welsh/Scottish League at Caerphilly last Saturday, the 36-16 victory vital to the Sardis Road club’s long term ambitions.
“Going to Caerphilly and getting a result is always difficult – it is one of those grounds where it is all too easy to fall flat on your face,” said Howells, who moved back to Pontypridd from Cardiff in the summer.
“It was a crucial win because of the situation Pontypridd are in at the moment. We have to be in the top half of the table at the end of the season to be involved in any re-organisation of the club scene.
“But now we can focus on the challenge of playing Saracens for a place in the PARKER PEN SHIELD semi-finals.
“I took Cardiff up there last year and got a result and Pontypridd will be going into the quarter-final in a positive frame of mind.”
For their part, Saracens will want to avoid a second knock-out on their home patch on successive weekends.
Their interest in the domestic issue of the English Cup came to an end at the quarter-final stage when they lost 30-28 to Northampton Saints on Saturday and now they will want to make their mark in Europe after putting down such emphatic markers in the Pool stage as they swept to the No 1 seed spot.

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