Friday, 17 May 2013

Ponty and Llanelli primed for round three in title clash saga

This Saturday will see Pontypridd and Llanelli clash horns for the third time in as many years in a tantalising fight for the Premiership crown.

Sardis Road plays host to the Principality Premiership Championship Play-off final after the Valley Commandos finished the regular season 23 points ahead of second-placed Llandovery. Yet this match will be no easy task, with both sides having won one of the last two clashes apiece.

The hosts go in to the crunch encounter on the verge of history as they are looking to secure a first league and Cup double having shown great work ethic and spirit to stage a comeback and beat Neath 34-13 in the WRU ‘Finals Day’ at the Millennium Stadium on May 4.

Their coach Dale McIntosh has called on his players not to overcomplicate things as they chase a historic moment. He said: “We need to concentrate on getting the little things right during the course of the game: to be tight in defence; to give ourselves a solid set piece platform; to work through the phases and carry the ball hard; to put players into space.

“We can put a strong 23-man squad into action on Saturday night and we are capable of playing expansive rugby to win the game. It will be one hell of a battle as Llanelli themselves are hitting form and have some dangerous strike players with an abundance of pace and creativity.”

They will agree. They came through a tough semi-final at Llandovery on the weekend 29-20, with Jordan Williams starring throughout with a try, three conversions and a penalty. They also ran in four touchdowns through as many scorers, so they will believe they have the firepower throughout to trouble Ponty.

Head coach Kevin George believes getting this far has matched their objectives over the season. He said: “Our objectives for the year were to get through in the British and Irish Cup, which we did, and then return to the league.

“We’ve had our limitations. We had a lot of boys in the Wales U20s, and with so many Scarlets players called up to the Wales squad they soaked a lot of our players up. So we had a mid-season dip, which we understand, and then came back strong.

“We’re building up nicely after the last couple of performances, but we’ve got to be clinical and a lot sharper then we were against Llandovery. We’ve got to match their passion and physicality, stay with them and then try and get ahead in the second half.

“We’ve got to equal the crowd, the Sardis Road effect and everything else. We have to be good at the basics and see what develops, but we’ve done it before.”

Ponty will start as favourites having won the three clashes between the sides – both in the league and also in the Swalec Cup on route to the final – with an aggregate score of 72-48. But this is a one-off affair, and Llanelli’s 24-18 triumph in 2011 shows that over 80 minutes nothing is certain.

Saturday’s game, live on S4C, sees the West Wales side going for their fifth title. Ponty will be hoping to capture their third, having beaten Llanelli 15-13 last year to gain revenge for the 2011 reverse.


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