History is in the making for three Gwent clubs as they venture into the Swalec Cup semi-finals this afternoon. The tournament may not have the lure that it once had but it won't feel like that for the players and supporters of Newbridge, Ebbw Vale and Cross Keys as the clock strikes 2.30pm. The draw has thrown up a pair of Division One East versus Premiership semis and both promise to be bruising encounters.
For Newbridge it's a first venture to the last four since they lost to Llanelli in 1989, that semi-final appearance coming two years after a loss to Swansea at St Helen's. Unfortunately, they have their work cut out to go one better at Cardiff Arms Park this afternoon against a Pontypridd side who are favourites to lift the trophy.
Nonetheless that won't stop 'Bridge from giving it their all and they possess a lively back three in Ryan Lee, Ceri Young and Andrew Bevan and the gnarly experience of lock Mark Curtis up front. It's expected to be a much tighter affair at Rodney Parade when there will be a good old-fashioned Gwent ding-dong between the Steelmen and Keys. Ebbw aren't so unfamiliar with semi-finals in their recent history but they would dearly love to repeat their 1998 jaunt to the final when the venue was Bristol's Ashton Gate rather than Cardiff.
Neil Edwards' side have claimed the Premiership scalps of Newport, Carmarthen Quins and Swansea and none of those successes has been fluky. They are a hard-working side that is strong in the set piece and they possess a terrific 10 in Dorian Jones whose siege gun right boot will be influential. But they are up against a Keys side that has already ensured this season will have a lengthy chapter in the club's history book.
Last week they beat Cornish Pirates in the British and Irish Cup to secure a first major final in their' 127-year existence and they will try and double up today. They matched the physicality of the full-time Cornishmen and will look to put the squeeze on their Gwent rivals up front. The long cup journey will be over for two teams this evening and 88 players will be putting everything into their game in the hope of wearily heading to bed thinking of a Bank Holiday Monday final appearance at the Millennium Stadium on May 7.