Ebbw Vale are closing in on the Division One East title and could edge out Newbridge to earn a play-off clash with One West champions Bridgend. The winners of that will face the team which finishes bottom of the Principality Welsh Premiership, almost certain to be Glamorgan Wanderers, to see who will play in the top level of domestic rugby next season.
Elsewhere, Tredegar celebrated promotion from Division Two East, while in the lower sections, all of the leading side emerged victorious. Although leaders Newbridge romped to a 10-try, 66-15 home success over hapless Ystrad Rhondda, Ebbw Vale remained in touch with a five-point win of their own – 40-10 against visiting Merthyr. It all means that although there is still a five-point difference between the clubs, Ebbw Vale have two matches in hand in which to overtake their county rivals.
Newbridge have only one game remaining, at home to Bedlinog on Saturday; Ebbw Vale will entertain Beddau on that day before completing their fixtures at Bedlinog. Newbridge scored tries through centre Matthew Edwards (3), skipper and number eight Ross Coombs (2), winger Gareth Jones, full back Shaun Thomas, prop Mike Hutchings plus back-row forwards Andrew Coupe and Gavin Knapp.
Thomas and outside- half Richard Powell shared the place-kicking duties in successfully landing two and six conversions respectively. It was Newbridge’s 17th win in 21 league outings and team manager Darryl Williams said all his side can do is to make sure they win that final game against Bedlinog. “We can only control what we do and all our efforts are now geared towards beating Bedlinog, what happens elsewhere is out of our hands,” he said.
Ebbw Vale ran in five tries via flanker Nicky Coughlin, lock Ashley Sweet, full back Charlie Simpson, left-winger Danny Ajuwa and centre Tristan Davies, with stand-off Dorrian Jones slotting over five conversions. However, at one stage Merthyr were reduced to 12 men because of a sending off and a couple of others players were sent to the sin-bin. In the same division, Blackwood’s hopes of finishing third took a big hit when they were beaten 41-12 at Beddau, where tries came from flanker Gareth Rusby-Davies and centre Gareth Price, who also booted a conversion to pass the 100-point mark for the season.
Tredegar won 40-22 at home to Ynysddu to go to the top above Mountain Ash and discovered the win was enough to earn promotion as Rhydyfelin lost 24-3 at Llantwit Fardre. Mountain Ash remain favourites to go up as champions because they have two matches in hand over Tredegar. However, Tredegar director of rugby Robert Johnston revealed he was just happy that the club would now deservedly play in Division One East next season.
“There have been so many people involved in our success, but I must mention Jason Williams and Gareth Johnston (respective backs and forwards coach), Chris Jones (team manager), David Brown (conditioning coach) and Rhys Hallett (club skipper). “It’s been a real team effort and I am so pleased that we can now relax during our final three games of the season.” Tries for Tredegar were posted by right- winger Hallett, centre Matthew Jolly, number eight Allen Jenkins, full back Steve Knight, prop Andrew Grant and outside-half Dan Haymond, who landed five conversions.
In the same section, Fleur-de-Lys were beaten 59-30 at Llantrisant and Brynmawr 37-18 at Tylorstown. In Division Three East, table-topping Rhymney won 35-20 at Newport HSOB, while Four East leaders Senghenydd were busy reaching the SWALEC Bowl final. Five East kings Caldicot were 29-12 winners over visiting Usk with the Six East table still headed by Abertysswg Falcons, who swept to a 51-3 home success over Cefn Fforest. In Six South East, not-in-action Hafodyrynys dropped to second place as a result of rivals Caerleon’s 14-12 win at New Panteg.