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Can the Rags find more riches? . . . Or will Cardiff be reeled in by the chasing Indigo Premiership pack?

As the Indigo Welsh Premiership reaches the halfway stage, the big question is, can anyone catch Cardiff?

The battle for the top of the table is as fierce a contest as it ever has been, in one of the most competitive years of the Welsh Premiership to date.

Yet even so, the reigning champions are nine points clear of chasing Aberavon, with Llandovery just a single point behind the Wizards.

Cardiff are currently 4/11 favourites for the title, and currently lead the way on 52 points, having won 11 of their 12 games. 

The Rags have at times looked unstoppable, an 82-0 win against Carmarthen is probably their most eye-catching result this season and 10 try bonus points show just how good a side theyare. 

A 30-23 loss against challengers Aberavon brought Cardiff coach Steve Law’s side back to earth, and with the Six Nations looming Cardiff could soon be without some of their young stars.

The regional outfit – Cardiff Rugby – are likely to come calling at Law’s door for players to plug gaps left by international calls.

However, since their loss to the Wizards, last year’s winners have picked up three wins in a row. 

Law says: “It was a difficult relationship a few years ago with Cardiff Rugby (region), but now the relationship is far more aligned. 

“The working week is now geared towards a shared direction. You take the good and bad from things and you just have to accept what you have and carry on.

“We have an excellent squad; we have a lot of experience and some of the young boys are starting to really show their quality. It is going to be a difficult period coming up, but that’s just how rugby is.” 

Cardiff can also boast the league’s leading tryscorer in Dewi Cross, who has crossed for 14 touchdown so far – twice that of nearest rival, Carrick McDonough of Ebbw Vale.

Aberavon come in at 12/1 for the title and are enjoying another excellent season – quietly going about their business, since a small blip in early November. 

The Wizards won their first six games of the season, but Cardiff and Llandovery soon caught them up, after losses against Ebbw Vale, Newport and RGC had derailed their excellent start. 

Jason Hyatt’s men have since hit back with wins against Cardiff, Bridgend and Swansea, and he will hope his side can continue to keep up pace with the leaders. 

Another team who are well within the hunt for the title at the turn of the year areLlandovery

They could well go above Aberavon – and into second place – if they win at home to Merthyr on Thursday night.

Euros Evans’ side have been knocking on the door in recent seasons, but this year odds of only 5/2 odds reflect the fact that the Drovers look as if they mean business. 

Nine wins in 10 for the West Walians puts them right in the mix for title contention.

Llandovery could even go joint top, if they pick up two bonus point wins in their games in hand on Cardiff, although their one loss this season has come against the current leaders. 

Wins against RGC, Ebbw Vale and Newport have put the Drovers in an excellent position to challenge, but Evans isn’t getting too ahead of himself. 

While he is pleased his side are grinding out wins in the wet weather, he insists there are more challenges to overcome before they can start thinking about lifting silverware.

Evans said: “We are finding ways to win, and we have scored some excellent tries. Our props are coming of age and our driving line-out is working, so I’m happy with the way our forwards are shaping up.

“The top four are doing well, but I still think Newport and RGC could come through and challenge. We need to get through the wet period of the season and hope we can shine when the pitches get harder.”  

Ebbw Vale have been the surprise package this season, under the guidance of former Wales under 20s head coach Jason Strange. 

The former fly half and his coaching staff have turned the Steelmen into a formidable outfit this season, which sees them at priced at a generous 22/1 to win the league. 

After a poor season last year, Ebbw are back to their best. Their side from Gwent have impressed with their kicking game, marshalled by their impressive half-back pairing, former Scarlet Jonathan Evans and youngster Evan Lloyd. 

Lloyd is currently the leading points scorer in the Indigo Premiership, with 105 – the only player to reach the century mark.

Coach Geraint Lewis’s defence has also stood up this season and has been the foundation of many of Ebbw Vale’s wins. 

The Steelmen looked impressive, picking up the double against last year’s runners up and local rivals Newport, and have beaten Aberavon 24-17 away from home. 

But losses against Cardiff, Llandovery and a shock 29-27 loss against bottom side Bridgend have provided new questions for Strange’s side to answer in the new year. 

Lloyd said: “Jason (Strange) has been really good for the boys, but for me as a No.10, just trying to pick his brains has been brilliant.

“He has a great track record at developing young players and it’s been great to try and learn from him, especially in the position that I’m in.

“We’ve had a really good start, and we are in and amongst the best teams in the league, but we have been disappointed with a few tight losses, which could have gone our way.”

Newport, meanwhile, find themselves down in sixth place, after a poor start to the season, which included losing their first four games. 

The Black and Ambers soon hit back with four wins on the bounce, against the likes of Aberavon and Merthyr. But a loss against local rivals Ebbw Vale has set them back. 

So, can Newport’s exciting youngsters help to boost the Black and Ambers back up the table?

Outside-half and attack coach Matt O’Brien said: “We’d like to be a few places further up the table, but we are not too disheartened about where we are.

“We are not too far off now and if we can go on another good run, we can get right in amongst it. 

“We know we have it in our armoury, it’s just finding that consistency.”

Newport are outsiders, but at 14/1 for the title, they are still more fancied than rivals Ebbw Vale.

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