PONTYPRIDD captain Chris Dicomidis leads his team into their Swalec Cup quarter-final at Neath tomorrow – the first of back-to-back meetings with the Premiership leaders – confident the valleys club has come through its recent sticky patch.
Writing in his blog on the official Pontypridd RFC website, the skipper and No 8, who lifted the Swalec Cup at the Millennium Stadium last May, believes the Sardis Road outfit are now back to the form they will need to defend their trophy and push for the Premiership title.
Defeats at Newport and Carmarthen Quins temporarily derailed Pontypridd’s season but after thrashing Bridgend last Friday, Dale McIntosh’s men are beginning to hit their straps once again.
From now until the end of the season, Dicomidis and his charges will need to play almost flawless rugby if they want to be in with a shout of reaching the Premiership grand final on May 19, seven days after the cup final in Cardiff.
“Our form over the last few months has been patchy to say the least and we as a team are fully aware of this, and aware of the challenges ahead,” said Dicomidis. “There is no bigger challenge than Neath at the Gnoll which is where we go this weekend.
“As a team we have not been playing well and we recognise this. We have been training hard in the weeks leading up to games and the feeling as ever has been really good.
“Then come game day something hasn’t been going right which has led to disappointing defeats at Newport and Carmarthen Quins. Against Newport it was more individual error which cost us the game, then against the Quins it was our failure to close out a game and giving away a needless penalty.
“The victory last Friday against Bridgend was huge for us. There were definitely some nerves in the changing room from both players and coaches but we knew if we played anywhere near our potential we would win.
“The pitch and weather conditions helped us in our quest to play running rugby from the kick off but also mix it up when we needed to. I believe it was our best forward performance of the season and we dominated a very good Bridgend pack.
“Our backs as well seem to be hitting some fine form, running hard lines and showing free flowing handling. We set out to win the game, but to come away with a bonus point was more than we asked for.”
Pontypridd beat Neath in the third round of the cup last season and will be eager for a repeat of that this time around.
“We want to defend our crown as Swalec Cup holders and we know only our best will get us a victory against Neath,” he added. “We are then going to have to back this up the following week when Neath visit Sardis in the league. We have a massive run in to the end of the season with everything still to play for.”
Pontypridd can boast a relatively injury-free squad to choose from though scrum-half Garyn Lucas and prop Chris Phillips are both out with knee problems while hooker Jack Dando is nursing a dislocated shoulder.
Centre Adam Thomas and winger Owen Williams are both away with the Wales Sevens squad, and lock Cory Hill and prop Ryan Harford are on duty with Cardiff Blues.
Neath (probable); A Bramwell; K James, G King, N Brew, E Jones; D Langdon, C Morgans; N Downs, R Clancy, T Price, E Evans, Rhys Jones, L Evans, A Powell, G Gravell (capt). Reps; O Ford, A James, J Reeves, L Ward, M Rees, G McCarthy, T Barry.
Pontypridd; G Wyatt; C Clayton, G Dacey, D Lockyer, M Nuthall; S Humberstone, L Jones; S Williams, H Dowden, P Palmer, C Locke, R Savage, C Dicomidis (capt), D Godfrey, W O’Connor. Reps; R Downes, Lewis K Williams, Gary Williams, T Hetherington, J Thomas, O Sheppeard, K Knaggs.
Referee – Ian Davies