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WRU Admiral Championship Preview, 01/10/2022

Aled Brew has been rolling back the years for Neath and the former Wales wing will be part of the big game of the day in the WRU Admiral Championship this weekend.

Second-place Neath host Narberth, who are just two points behind in fifth, with leaders Pontypool already the only unbeaten team in the division after three rounds of matches.

Brew is now 36-year-old, but the former Biarritz, Bath and Dragons wing opted to come out of retirement and join the squad at The Gnoll after two years on the sidelines.

Neath chief executive Matt Church says: “Aled had kept himself in great shape and was enjoying the odd game of rugby.

“Having seen Aled play in James Hook’s testimonial and also against a Billy Twelvetrees Select XV, it was perfectly clear he was still fit enough and hungry enough to play rugby at this level.

“We did what we needed to do to secure that and managed to get it over the line. Having a consummate professional in the ranks will hopefully assist that forward momentum we are seeking.”

Neath started the campaign with a win over champions Bargoed, before thumping Bedwas, 37-7.

They lost a thriller at Pontypool last week, 34-30, but Church reckons it will prove a temporary setback for a club determined to recapture some of their former glories under coach Patrick Horgan.

“We might have nicked it and if a couple of decisions had gone the other way, we would have done. But to come away with two bonus points was a decent outcome.

“We are starting now to get interest and acknowledgement that we are again a solid, community-based rugby club. So much of the drama and negativity around the club has gone away.”

Pooler’s narrow win over the Welsh All Blacks maintained their 100 per cent record and they can stretch it out to four games this weekend if they can dispose of bottom of the table Trebanos.

They Swansea Valley club go to Pontypool Park on the back of three defeats and Pooler head coach Leighton Jones says: “If there are four or five teams in this title race, you have to win your home games otherwise the pressure is on.

“Last week was massive for us, especially because we didn’t play well. But we have to back it up now at home against Trebanos.

“Neath brought a massive support with them, and both sets of fans were a credit to their clubs. I think there were over 2,000 people at the game. It makes a huge difference and hopefully we will get the same this week.”

Pooler had to deal with an emotional atmosphere at the ground last week, with pre-match tributes to their former captain, Wales skipper and legendary commentator Eddie Butler, who died earlier this month.

But they held things together to show why they are firm favourites to finally go up to an expanded Indigo Premiership next season, following the decision to extend that tier to 14 teams.

“I played a long time for the club and the last few years at Pontypool have definitely not always been rosy,” adds Jones.

“There has been a lot of ups and downs. But it has allowed us to really build back up as a club and especially rebuild relationships in the local community.

“It has really helped heal things, as we look to grow as a club. The players tell me, when they are walking around the town or in their jobs, supporters are high-fiving them and stopping to chat.

“We have brought a unity within the community and the boys really want to go out and get that promotion this year.”

Chasing down the top two are Cardiff Met who host last season’s champions Bargoed.

The students are again fighting on two fronts as they also compete in the midweek BUCS Super Rugby competition for colleges and universities as well as within the WRU pyramid.

Met began with a big win over Trebanos, overcame Ystrad Rhondda in a tighter affair, but last week lost at Glamorgan Wanderers.

But director of rugby Danny Milton has more players to pick from than the rest of the Championship put together.

“We have now got 440 rugby players – 220 first years and 220 returners,” says Milton.

“If you ask all our performance players what they want to do in the future, they’ll say they want to be a pro rugby player.

“Three or four of them might end up doing that, but what else are you going to do? We can offer a much wider landscape and playing traditional Welsh club rugby is part of that.”

Fourth place Cross Keys are at home to Tata Steel, who are one from bottom, and Keys will fancy their chances having recovered well from their 56-7 thumping against Pooler a fortnight ago.

Making up the current top six, Ystalyfera will look to matchwinner and key man Sam Cowley to do the damage again at home to Ystrad Rhondda.

Cowley scored a try, three penalties and a conversion last week in his side’s win over Tata Steel.

Ystrad Rhondda currently lay 11th and are coming off the back of a 13-all draw at home to Maesteg Quins.

The Quins themselves host Glamorgan Wanderers in a bottom half of the table battle, while the remaining game sees a mid-table battle between Beddau and Bedwas.

October 1, 2022

Beddau                v              Bedwas

Cardiff Met         v              Bargoed

Cross Keys          v              Tata Steel

Maesteg Quins v              Glamorgan Wanderers

Neath                  v             Narberth

Pontypool           v              Trebanos

Ystalyfera           v              Ystrad Rhondda

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