By Paul Jones
The title may be out of their grasp, but there is still plenty of stake for Neath in the Admiral National Championship.
On Wednesday night, the Welsh All Blacks travel to Cross Keys, knowing that a bonus point victory will clinch their promotion back to the Indigo Welsh Premiership.
Pontypool – who just about kept their unbeaten season intact with a 31-29 win at Ystrad Rhondda on Tuesday night – are the champions and Neath’s three defeats in their campaign this season meant they were never going to close the gap as long as Pooler maintained their incredible season-long unbeaten run.
But a victory at Pandy Park with four tries into the bargain will seal the promotion deal for Neath, with two games of their league season still remaining.
They currently have 104 points and lay in third, four points behind Bargoed. But their rivals have now completed all their matches, meaning that even if Neath blew it at Keys, they would still have two bites at the cherry left to go.
Reigning champions Bargoed set a target for Neath as they ran in eight tries at home in a 54-21 win over Glamorgan Wanderers to complete their season.
That took them up into second place, leaving third placed Neath with three games to try to bridge the four-point gap to claim the second promotion spot.
Pontypool director of rugby Leighton Jones insists his club have not had it all their own way, despite their unblemished record and insists Neath – and others – have pushed them all the way.
“The league has been more competitive this year – Neath and Bargoed recruited well and Ystrad Rhondda have been punching well above their weight,” says Jones.
Neath should be in confident enough mood to get the job done on Wednesday, though, as it’s only a week on since they beat Cross Keys, 31-14 at home.
Their back-up chances – should they need them – are away at Beddau on Saturday and then at home to Ystrad Rhondda on May 24.
Cross Keys have had a mixed season with 11 wins and 14 defeats and are coming off the back of a 34-24 defeat to Maesteg Quins last weekend. It was Keys’ fifth defeat in just 15 days.
In fact, Keys have lost those last five matches since they earned victory on April 22, when they beat Narberth, 28-22.
Narberth themselves are also in action Wednesday night, when they travel to Glamorgan Wanderers.
The Otters lay in sixth place in the table, with Wanderers back in 11th.
Narberth hammered struggling Tata Steel, 36-3 last time out, while the Wanderers are coming off the back of a 54-21 trouncing away at Bargoed.
In the other fixture, the bottom-but one club, Ystalyfera, travel to the club just one place above them, Trebanos.
Wednesday, May 17
Cross Keys v Neath (7:15pm)
Glamorgan Wanderers v Narberth (7.15pm)
Trebanos v Ystalyfera (7.15pm)