Friday, 13 November 2009

Top of table clash at Sardis Road

For the third time in just over a month the Premiership fixture list has thrown up another top of the table clash - first against second - with the one common factor in all those occasions being the participation of Pontypridd.

Pontypridd take on Neath at Sardis Road tomorrow (KO 2:30pm).

On an impressive run of six consecutive wins Ponty currently occupy top spot in the table, with Neath snapping at their heels just three points adrift. As league encounters between the two clubs are usually of the hard fought and narrowly won variety, a titanic struggle can be expected at the House of Pain.

Regional and international call-ups have had an impact on Ponty’ selection for the Neath game. Centre Gavin Dacey is a doubt having suffered a shoulder injury on duty last week with the Wales Sevens squad.

Called up to the Blues’ ranks once more are prop Sam Hobbs and hooker Rhys Williams, joined this week by regional debutant, lock Chris Dicomidis, whilst prop Pat Palmer is on duty with the Dragons.

Sidelined with injury are scrum half Gavin Morris (knee) and flanker Kristian Dacey (shoulder) whilst lock Grant Harrington has been laid low with the flu.

Outside half Dai Flanagan however is available from the Blues to take a place in the Ponty starting line up. Centre Dafydd Lockyer returns from injury, and Chris Martenko and Ryan Savage pair up at lock.

Despite being without a game last week, Neath stayed in second place and they play their ninth away game of the season out of 12 when they visit Ponty.

The Welsh All Blacks make five changes from the side which started poorly yet finished strongly to beat Llanelli 28-26 at Parc-y-Scarlets a fortnight ago. Behind the scrum, Kevin Morgan and Arwel Thomas return. Up front, prop Nicky Downs starts for the first time following a long injury absence while Peter Sidoli and Lee Evans also return.

Neath Head Coach Patrick Horgan, said: “Seeing that Pontypridd are top of the table, I suppose we visit Sardis Road as underdogs and, after the rains, we anticipate a heavy pitch and a mud-wrestle but we go there refreshed after having last week off.

Pontypridd are always a side to be reckoned with and the two clubs have a lot of mutual respect for each other. Our forwards know they will be in for a battle and, with guys like Gavin Dacey and Dafydd Lockyer, Pontypridd are always very direct behind so it should be a good, no frills game.

“It could be pretty tight and one thing is certain - we will not be able to give Pontypridd the kind of start we gave Swansea and Llanelli and expect to overturn it.

“We have always enjoyed visiting Sardis Road because in terms of atmosphere it is very much like The Gnoll. Neath and Pontypridd are probably the two best supported sides in the Premiership so we are looking forward to a big game in every sense.”

Pontypridd: 15.Matthew Nuthall. 14.Kristian Baller. 13.Adam Thomas. 12.Dafydd Lockyer. 11.Chris Clayton. 10.Dai Flanagan. 9.Rhys Downes; 1.Stuart Williams. 2.Huw Dowden. 3.Ryan Harford. 4.Chris Martenko. 5.Ryan Savage. 6.Rhys Lloyd. 7.Wayne O’Connor. 8.Nathan Strong (capt)
Replacements: Dean Gunter; Aaron Bramwell; Lewis Williams; Tom Hetherington; Darren Waters; McCauley Cook; Lewis Smout.

Neath: G.King; K.James, S.Thomas, N.Brew, K.Morgan; A.Thomas (captain), K.Farrell; N.Downs, G.Price, M.Jones; P.Sidoli, N.Edwards; E.Evans, L.Evans, G.Gravell.
Replacements: W.Mitchell, G.McCarthy, T.James, A.Littlehales, J.Reeves, H.Pugh, C.Price.


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