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Newport seek Gwent derby win to go top in Indigo Prem

Lloyd Lewis

Newport will be hoping for more tries from flying wing Lloyd Lewiis

There are three Gwent clubs in the play-off places at present and Newport Stadium is likely to be bouncing for another mouth-watering regional derby ahead of the Dragons’ URC clash with the Ospreys.

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Reigning champions Llandovery could find themselves being knocked off the top of the Indigo Premiership this weekend if Newport can make it six wins in a row and clinch a bonus-point against Ebbw Vale.

Newport will also have to do without Matt O’Brien in their back division because of his duties with the Dragons, but have either Carwyn Penny or Wales U20 cap Jac Lloyd to take over at No 10 as they seek a sixth win in a row in the wake of their26-15 win over Cardiff last time out.
“It is another Gwent derby and another big game. It’s great seeing the three Gwent clubs in the top four and you whoever ends up top of the three clubs will be strong contenders for the title,” said Newport team manager Mark Workman.

“We know what to expect from Ebbw Vale, who beat us twice last season. They are going to come after us at the set-piece and we must be ready for that.”

Ebbw  Vale head coach Jason Strange says his players have had more than enough time to get over the disappointment of losing at Pontypool having not played since that 25-20 defeat on 2 November.

“It wasn’t ideal having a weekend off after the defeat at Pontypool Park. The players just wanted to get back out there to try to put right the wrongs from that defeat,” said Strange.“We felt we were in control of the game for 70 minutes, but then lost out grip. We beat ourselves.

“Pontypool played well, and it was a great atmosphere, but it was an uncharacteristic performance from us. We were off it in almost every department.“In games like that you have to get your fundamentals right. Out set-piece malfunctioned and there were individual that went on top of that.

“There is no panic. Whenever this team has had a set-back they have responded very well because of the high standards they set themselves.”

Ebbw will welcome back hooker Joe Franchi after he finally recovered from an injury picked up in the opening game of the season, but will be without powerhouse No 8 Ryan Jenkins. 
Pontypool suffered only their second defeat of the season at the home of the champions, Llandovery, last weekend and will have home comforts on Saturday when they welcome the other team promoted with them to the top tier last season, Neath.
“I don’t think it was one of our better performances at Llandovery, and there were certainly areas in which we were second best,” admitted director of rugby Leighton Jones. 

“Llandovery took the points when they were on offer and that showed there was respect from them. There are areas of our game we need to look at.“We’ve talked about how tight we are as a group over the last few weeks, but you’re only as tight as how you bounce back from a loss, so we will look forward to Neath this weekend.”

After back-to-back home defeats against Pontypool and Newport, the 2022 champions, and last season’s runners-up, Cardiff, will be hoping to get back to winning ways at Swansea.

Last weekend’s defeat saw the Blue & Blacks drop to seventh, 12 points off the play-off places. “Our performance, game management and effort were nowhere near where we need them to be last weekends we have to put that right,” admitted Cardiff head coach Steve Law.

“We have been open and honest about that and we need to be the best version of ourselves in Swansea. We know St Helens is a tough place to go to, but if we perform as we know we can we can come away with a result.”

The All Whites are two points behind Cardiff in 10th having only won twice in eight outings to date. They will be seeking their first home win in the league this season.

Aberavon host Pontypridd, who picked up a morale boosting win over Swansea last weekend at Sardis Road, while Carmarthen Quins welcome Merthyr and Bridgend host RGC.

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