Pontypool RFC full-back, Geraint Walsh, believes the squad are ready for an exciting end to the month, as the club prepare to host Carmarthen Quins RFC and Bedwas RFC at Pontypool Park, writes Andrew Deering.
After recording their first victory over Neath RFC at The Gnoll since December 1991 last weekend, Leighton Jones' men will finish the month with a WRU National Cup quarter-final at home to Indigo Premiership high-flyers, Carmarthen. Following the game against the West Wales side, Gwent rivals, Bedwas, travel to Pontypool Park for a crunch Specsavers National Championship clash.
The Gnoll triumph saw the side play some enterprising rugby as they ran in eight tries in a 54-12 win. The victory could yet prove to be the perfect preparation for Pooler as they look to continue a season that has seen them reach the last eight of the domestic cup for a fourth consecutive season and drop just one point from fifteen games in the league.
Walsh, one of the try-scorers at the weekend, credits Neath with showing noticeable improvement from the Pontypool Park fixture between the two clubs earlier in the season, but was satisfied with how Pooler performed. "Neath made us work defensively - our defensive record has been pretty good recently," said Walsh. "They played patient rugby, they built phases and they came round the corner really well as a pack. They deserved the tries they scored, but it was definitely good preparation for us ahead of the next two games."
The two fixtures, scheduled to be played within six days of each other, are set to be of an intensity and occasion not seen since the final weeks of the 2015/2016 league season. Unfortunately for the club, back-to-back games against RGC 1404 and Bargoed RFC would see the club fail in their goal to achieve promotion to the Premiership. However, over three and a half years on, the club will head into another important doubleheader in a stronger position.
"In terms of the league, we're putting pressure on ourselves to get maximum points in every game," said Walsh. "We haven't taken our foot off the gas so far this season. Every week we talk about how we can't afford to slip up as even though there is a eleven-point gap to Bargoed, who have a game in hand. We know if we slip up once, it will put pressure on us and give hope to those chasing us.
"Despite what we are trying to achieve in the league, we definitely don't see the cup as a distraction. We have a big enough squad to be able to compete in both competitions and we will relish the opportunity to go up against another quality Premiership outfit."
Carmarthen Quins will arrive in Pontypool this weekend having dispatched of Premiership league leaders, Cardiff, 29-7 in their last league game. The West Wales side, coached by former Scarlets and Wales hooker Emyr Phillips, currently sit second in the top division and, unsurprisingly, sit near the top of the charts in terms of tries scored and least conceded.
"We definitely believe we can progress to the semi-finals," said Walsh. "If you don't believe you can win then you don't stand much chance. The club beat Carmarthen in the cup two seasons ago, but they've come on a lot since then and seem a lot more consistent this season.
"I think our attack, in particular, has come on a lot this year. We are scoring some nice tries and the forwards and backs are linking up well together. It makes a huge difference to how you can play as a team and everyone plays their part - especially guys like Scott Matthews and Ieuan Jones with their offloading game.
"The Pontypool Park crowd make a massive difference to us as a team - particularly in the big cup games. They've regularly been our 16th man and when you run out of the tunnel and there's a packed crowd, you automatically get an extra spring in your step and are bouncing for the game to start. This weekend will be no different."
Ticket prices for Pontypool RFC v Carmarthen Quins RFC at Pontypool Park on Saturday 25th January at 5.15pm will be as follows: Adults £10 | Under-16s go free when accompanied by a paying adult.