Swalec Cup final preview: Neath v Pontypridd
Neath head coach Patrick Horgan says a Swalec Cup final victory will save their season.
After an inconsistent Premiership campaign, the Welsh All Blacks have the chance to end their season on a high at the Millennium Stadium this evening (5.30pm).
And while they face a tough ask against the runaway Premiership leaders, Pontypridd, Horgan is adamant they have what it takes to take home the trophy.
“We realise how tough it’s going to be,” said the former Neath scrum-half.
“Pontypridd have been by far the most consistent and best team in the Premiership, not just this season but over the last two years.
“We’ve dropped off somewhat in the last 12 months, but we’re in with a chance and will give it our best shot.
“We have some experience within our side and we’ll be looking for those players to put in a good performance.
“As well as that we’ve some younger but key players such as Luc Jones, Dai Langdon and Dafydd Howells, who has been named in the Wales training squad this week.”
Meetings between Pontypridd and Neath are not for the faint-hearted with the two sides both boasting formidable cup records.
And with the respective coaches having played against each other in past finals, neither side will be giving an inch in pursuit of silverware.
“Over the years we’ve had the edge on them but slowly and surely they’ve taken over us as a club,” said Horgan.
“They’ve got a very good side and were far out in front in the final league table.
“Now it’s up to us to put a performance in and turn them over on the weekend.”
Pontypridd were edged out in last year’s Swalec Cup final, going down 32-19 to Cross Keys – a side beaten by Neath as they progressed to this year’s showpiece occasion.
The Welsh All Blacks are six times holders of the cup, their most recent victory coming in 2009.
One of the players Horgan is looking to for a strong performance is 18-year-old scrum-half Luc Jones.
“The cup run has got our season back on track,” said Jones, whose father is former Neath and Ospreys coach Lyn.
“A win will mean everything to us. Pontypridd are going to be the massive favourites as they’ve been the best team in the league.
“We’ll have to be accurate in everything we do, and when we get the opportunity to score tries, we’ll have to take every one.”
Pontypridd are still on course for a first league and cup double, but skipper Chris Dicomidis – who was yesterday named the Premiership Player of the Year by the Welsh Rugby Writers’ Association – insists they have won nothing yet.
“Luckily we’re back at the stadium after tough quarter-final and semi-final games,” he said.
“We’ve done it the hard way, but hopefully in the final we can play the type of rugby we enjoy playing.”
Before the main event, Wattstown and Fishguard clash in the Swalec Bowl final (1pm) and Rhydyfelin meet Heol y Cyw in the Swalec Plate (3.15pm).
“It has been another wonderful year for the club,” said Wattstown team manager Ryan Romans.
“We have worked hard to be where we are and the fact that we have sold out our 500 ticket allocation tells you how much support we get from the community.”
Tickets for the Swalec Finals day are £10 for adults, £5 for under 16s with a family ticket for two adults, two children available at £20.