Friday, 13 September 2013

Swalec Championship Weekend Predictions

With the magic of the Swalec Championship finally underway, who will lay down a marker this week as the possibility of promotion is on the cards this season?

The opening round of fixtures produced some impressive wins for the likes of Pontypool and Narberth while Ebbw Vale gave newcomers RGC 1404 a warm welcome to Championship life when they travelled up to Colwyn Bay with a comprehensive 31-16 result.

The Steelmen are involved in the undoubted tie of the weekend when last season’s winners take on last season’s runners up, Bargoed, at Eugene Cross Park.

Blackwood v Llanharan

With both sides beginning the 2013-14 campaign with defeats, it will be imperative to pick up momentum even at this early stage. Some sections of the Llanharan camp may still be left bewildered at the large margin of their loss to Cardiff Met after they had raced into a 12-0 lead early on. They travel to Glan-yr-Afon Park this weekend to take on a Blackwood outfit that will be smarting after such a narrow opening defeat to Bridgend Athletic. I fancy a close game here and think it could be decided by the finest of margins. Blackwood’s home advantage will likely prove to be the deciding factor.

Verdict – Blackwood by 4 points.

Cardiff Met v Bonymaen

Despite dominating much of the possession and territory against Llanharan, Cardiff Met showed a distinct lack of fluency or panache for long periods of the game. But in lively wingers James Beal and Pierre Tucker as well as abrasive flanker Jamie Harries, the students have more than enough quality in their ranks to see off teams when they start firing on all cylinders. Bonymaen were on the end of the biggest defeat of the week against Narberth and I feel as though history could repeat itself this weekend. With the BUCS season yet to begin, Cardiff Met could take some stopping during the early season’s fixtures.

Verdict – Cardiff Met by 22 points.

Ebbw Vale v Bargoed

What a treat at this stage of the campaign! Even early on, this encounter could go a long way to deciding the outcome of the Championship. Jason Strange’s men announced the signing of two new players to their already impressive squad this week in the form of David James and Tom McAloon. James is a wing/centre who has represented Wales at Rugby League as well as having spells at Newbridge, Blackwood and Newport. 19-year old Cardiff Blues Academy product McAloon impressed during pre-season friendlies against Nantyglo and Builth Wells. As promotion is now on the cards from the Championship, the Steelmen will be more determined than ever to finish in first place once again. With the experience of Neil Burnett now pulling the strings at fly-half for Bargoed, it would be foolish to write them off completely against Ebbw Vale. But with the influential Damien Hudd and industrious Ronnie Kynes leading from the front, it would take a brave man to bet against the Eugene Cross Park outfit.

Verdict – Ebbw Vale by 8 points.

Narberth v RGC 1404

RGC got a rude awakening to life in the Championship last weekend when they were well beaten by Ebbw Vale. Last season’s Division One East winners must look to win their home games and turn Parc Eirias into a fortress if they are going to avoid the drop after being promoted. Although the Colwyn Bay side may have secretly expected the worst from last weekend’s encounter against such a strong and established Championship side. Their next test is a trip to Pembrokeshire where they take on Narberth. The Otters were superb in their drubbing of Bonymaen and could be a surprise package this year if they can keep their squad fit and healthy. I feel RGC 1404 will be fine this season but I’m not expecting them to gain their first win just yet.

Verdict – Narberth by 13 points.

Newbridge v Tata Steel

Tata Steel could be another side to pose a major threat to Ebbw Vale’s crown this season. Led by the former Maesteg prop Gareth Edwards, they have a pack that would be the envy of most teams and some skilful backs who are more than capable of producing moments of brilliance. They began with a decent if unspectacular 22-6 win over Tondu and will hope for another result when they travel to The Welfare Ground on Saturday. Newbridge were poor and did not manage a single point against Bargoed in their previous fixture and a dramatic improvement will be needed. This game could turn into a cracking forward battle with the Saints marching out on top.

Verdict – Tata Steel by 6 points.

Pontypool v Bridgend Athletic

Both Pontypool and Bridgend Athletic will be buoyed by their opening day victories over Beddau and Blackwood respectively. As Pontypool’s financial miseries seem to be behind them, there is certain to be a breath of fresh air over the Pooler as they can finally concentrate on matters on the pitch. This was apparent in their 41-21 trouncing of Beddau last weekend as skipper Luke Dychkoff’s and new signing Ben Sparks, a former Bath Academy prospect, were outstanding throughout the 80 minutes. Things are looking bright for the red, black and whites.

Verdict – Pontypool by 11 points.

Tondu v Beddau

Newly promoted Tondu also got a dose of reality to life in the Championship as they went down 22-6 at Tata Steel. Last season’s Division One West winners will want to get things back on track and earn their first win in the league against a Beddau outfit who were put to the sword by Pontypool. With a number of star players leaving the Green and Golds prior to the start of the season, their new recruits will have to make sure they do not make the same mistakes as last week against a determined Tondu side.

Verdict – Beddau by 9 points.


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