Preview: Cardiff v Pontypridd

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What better way to see in 2019 than at the Arms Park as the old rivals of city boys Cardiff and valley boys Pontypridd go head-to-head in a full blooded Principality Premiership battle?

It’s second v third in the table and is set up to be a cracker with both teams in excellent form coming into the game and keen to keep the heat up on top place Merthyr as the season enters it’s second half.

For Cardiff as the home side the pressure is on them to get the result, but with only one loss in their last 12 Premiership games, and having not been defeated at the Arms Park since the opening day of the season against the strength of Merthyr, there is confidence to take for the Blue and Blacks.

Thomas Davies Cardiff RFC
Thomas Davies makes a tackle in that season opener against Merthyr

There is frustration to channel for Steve Law’s men as well though, who will feel they should be closer to Pontypridd and the Ironmen above them having been held to a 32-32 draw at home by 14-man Llandovery last time out.

However, all too prevalent is the record that Cardiff have against Ponty in recent years, with 20 straight losses and one draw taking us back to 2009 for the last Blue and Black win. That is across all competitions, an incredible run.

That win in December 2009 came courtesy of Lee Jarvis and Rhys Shellard tries, as well as the boot of Jarvis and Chris Anderson, as Cardiff won 20-21 at Sardis Road. Only James Down is still involved with the club of the squad on show that day.

These days there is a bit more Cardiff Blues involvement across both sides though, with 16 senior and academy players in action across both sides.

Pontypridd benefit from Liam Belcher and Kieron Assiratti up front, Alun Lawrence in the back row, Dane Blacker and Ben Jones at full-back and Cameron Lewis on the wing.

Liam Belcher Pontypridd
Liam Belcher will wear the colours of Pontypridd

Their head coach, the familiar face of Justin Burnell, has made a number of changes aside from the professional players, with only Shay Smallman, Chris Dicomidis and that Cardiff RFC try scorer from 2009 Rhys Shellard keeping their places up front, while Alex Knott and Dale Stuckey are the only survivors in the backs.

Captain and talisman Daf Lockyer returns to lead the side from inside centre, while on the bench the name of Gabriel Davies won’t be familiar to many, but he is in fact the brother of Cardiff Blues and Wales second row Seb Davies.

Pontypridd: Dale Stuckey, Alex Webber, Alex Knott, Daf Lockyer (c), Cam Lewis, Ben Jones, Dane Blacker; Ian George, Liam Belcher, Kieron Assiratti, Shay Smallman, Chris Dicomidis, Rhod Jones, Rhys Shellard, Alun Lawrence

Replacements: Huw Owens, Geraint Clarke, Gareth Smith, Sean Moore, Ross Morgan, Dai Francis, Gab Davies, Diggy Bird

Cardiff RFC, meanwhile, can count Rory Thornton, Ben Murphy, Shane Lewis-Hughes, Max Llewellyn, Tom James and Ben Thomas as Cardiff Blues players among their starting XV, while Rhys Carre, Ethan Lewis, Jim Botham and Lewis Jones are on the bench.

Elsewhere, only Zach O’Driscoll, Morgan Allen, Gareth Thompson and Joe Gatt remain from the starting XV that played Llandovery,  with club captain Joey Tomlinson and inside centre favourite Will Rees-Hole returning to the starting XV.

Cardiff RFC: Ben Thomas, Tom James, Max Llewellyn, Will Rees-Hole, Joe Gatt, Gareth Thompson, Martin Roberts; Thomas Davies, Joey Tomlinson (c), Peter Lloyd, Rory Thornton, Ben Murphy, Shane Lewis Hughes, Zach O’Driscoll, Morgan Allen

Replacements: Rhys Carre, Ethan Lewis, Keiron Brown, Sam Pailor, Jim Botham, Lewis Jones, Steffan Jones, Edd Howley

Ben Thomas Cardiff RFC
Ben Thomas lines up at full-back for the Blue and Blacks

As always in these games there are huge bragging rights up for grabs, with the city slickers hosting the valley commandos, and for the Blue and Blacks to have not won in this fixture for so long, this is a massive chance to end that run.

More than that though, with both teams really competitive in the Principality Premiership for the first time in a few years, there are crucial league points to be gained, momentum to be kept up and a base to play from in the New Year secured.

If Cardiff RFC can win it keeps the league wide open, and the challenging pack behind Merthyr tight. If Ponty win then it may well become a two-horse race at the top. All to play for!

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