8:13am Saturday 22nd March 2014
EBBW Vale are the only Championship side in the quarter-finals of the Swalec Cup but there would have been groans in Llandovery when they learnt that they had avoided Premiership opposition in the draw, writes Chris Kirwan.
The last-eight ties are played this afternoon and the clash at Eugene Cross Park between the Steelmen and the Drovers promises to be a humdinger.
It has been nearly a year since Ebbw last lost and that defeat happened to be a quarter-final encounter when Pontypridd, who went on to do the double, broke home hearts thanks to Dai Flanagan's last-gasp conversion.
Jason Strange's men have won all 28 games since that March afternoon and the rest of quarter-finalists would be quite happy if that run ended.
They may be a Championship club (for now) but many would rather go up against a Drovers side that sit third in the Premiership than the runaway leaders of the league below.
The Steelmen are brimming with confidence and will look for their well-drilled pack to do the damage against Llandovery, with inspirational captain Damien Hudd leading the charge and flanker Ronny Kynes steering their driving lineout.
Cross Keys triumphed against Cardiff in the last eight in 2012 before going on to lift the Swalec Cup at the Millennium Stadium. They will hope that history repeats itself, although this afternoon they must head to the Arms Park rather than hosting the Blue and Blacks.
If Keys are to lift the trophy then they will have had to do things the hard way – they won't enjoy the comfort of a Pandy Park tie after being drawn away to Premiership rivals Bedwas, Neath and now Cardiff.
Greg Woods' side are boosted by the return of influential captain Leon Andrews in midfield following a 13-week layoff with an elbow injury while they will hope that fly-half Dorian Jones wins his duel with a familiar face.
Dean Gunter pulled the strings in that Millennium Stadium triumph against Pontypridd two years ago and will look to boot Cardiff, who have been doubled by Keys in the Premiership this season, to success.
Pontypridd host Llanelli and Carmarthen Quins head to Aberavon in the other quarter-finals.
Newport would love to be in cup action but instead they will be looking to keep their fine form going at Swansea in the Premiership.
The Black and Ambers have won their last three, including an impressive win at title-chasing Carmarthen Quins last time out, and will fancy their chances of a fourth on the spin against the struggling Whites.
Swansea have won just once this season and it would be a huge disappointment if the Rodney Parade outfit fail to bring a five-match St Helen's losing streak to an end.
EBBW VALE (v Llandovery, home): D Haymond, L Davies, D James, C Meyer, P Uhi, I Smerdon, D Jones, R Jones, M Williams, R Sevenoaks, D Hudd (captain), A Sweet, G Rusby-Davies, R Kynes, C Regan. Replacements: TBA
CROSS KEYS (v Cardiff, away): R Lee, E Jones, L Andrews (captain), A James, N Trowbridge, D Jones, R James, R Cornock, D Hughes, C Gould, D Hodge, O Hodge, J Groves, R Tucker, A Powell. Replacements: A Lott, H Palmer, T Lampard, J Perkins, O Jones, J Cordy-Redden, K Baller, AN Other.
NEWPORT (v Swansea, away): G O'Driscoll, A Hewitt, D Robinson, D Franchi, O Broad, M O'Brien, A Quick, D Pattison, D Rogers, G Robinson, Adam Brown, A Frampton, C Attwell (captain), D Waters, B Lampitt. Replacements: Andrew Brown, J Greenfield, S Waldron, O Griffiths, J Leadbeater, E Davies, T James, A Jeffries.
– CHAMPIONSHIP FIXTURES: Bargoed v Blackwood, Cardiff Met v Pontypool, Bonymaen v Beddau, Llanharan v Bridgend Athletic, Narberth v Tondu, RGC 1404 v Tata Steel
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