Bridgend Ravens travel to Neath on Saturday (2:30pm) looking to kick on from the last two positive results.
Having had a disastrous start to the campaign, Bridgend fought back to earn a draw with Llandovery before putting Swansea to the sword six days later at the Bridgend Ford Brewery Field. Since then, the Ravens have had a rest period whilst the British and Irish Cup resumed.
Neath have also had a tricky start to the season, sitting bottom of the league with just five points from nine games. Their last game was an 8-19 reverse to Carmarthen Quins. Neath have reacted to their poor form by bringing in former coach Patrick Horgan. He replaces Robin Sowden Taylor and Llyr Lane.
Ravens Head Coach Ben Rose cannot wait for the clash on Saturday afternoon. ‘The festive season brings us two massive games. The Boxing Day clash against Bedwas will be the first home game on this date for a number of years. However, as a coaching group and squad you can't afford to look further than Neath on Saturday.
Neath are a team that you look forward to playing because you know that it is going to be a high intensity game in front of a good crowd during the holiday period. This is sure to raise the standard of the players of both sides.
Speaking with some players this week and last we are definitely excited by the talent and potential of this squad. Our back row and backline must be the most exciting in the league and our front five have shown that they can mix it with the likes of Llandovery, Pontypridd and Swansea.
Physicality and intensity are going to be really high at the start of any derby. We need to ensure that we maintain that intensity for long periods of the game and do not switch off and have our pants pulled down as we did against Aberavon!
We know that we have more than one way for us to win games but know that talent and potential do not count for much unless you are willing to put in the effort.
The two week British and Irish Cup window has given us a great opportunity to rest some players’ bodies and minds ahead of this clash. We have had two high quality sessions during the weeks off where we have focussed on going to the next level as a squad.
I am massively excited about these games, our team, and I hope that the players and supporters are to. I know for a fact that we have the best support in the league and the players feed off that week in week out. A win on Saturday certainly sets us up for the home Boxing Day match.’
The Gnoll has often been a difficult hunting ground for Bridgend. The Ravens went nearly thirty years without winning at the home of the Welsh All Blacks. However, since season 2008/2009, Bridgend are unbeaten at the ground – including a victory there at the start of this campaign in a British and Irish Cup Qualifier (8-13).
The head to head between the sides favours with the All Blacks. In 51 matches, they’ve won 37 whilst Bridgend have won 13, one game was drawn.