Llanelli look to boost play-off hopes against Premiership leaders Pontypridd
LLANELLI insist their hopes of reclaiming the Principality Premiership title are in their own hands as they host runaway leaders Pontypridd tomorrow (12 noon).
The West Walians are currently fifth in the table after losing to Carmarthen Quins last Friday, while Ponty are 16 points clear at the top following their 30-15 victory over the same side on Wednesday.
Llanelli will have three home games left this season after Pontypridd's visit to Parc y Scarlets this weekend, and their head of rugby Anthony Buchanan believes those matches will be crucial to their hopes of getting into the play-offs.
"We have home games left and it's important we win those," he said.
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"If we can win one away on the road or get a bonus point, all the better.
"From that point of view it's up to us, it's still in our own hands.
"We've got a lot of home games to come and we're fine with that."
Llanelli were frustrated by their defeat to Quins last Friday, having led at The Park before eventually losing 22-21 after a second-half fightback from the Quins.
The result left them two places and seven points behind Cross Keys, who occupy the third and final play-off position.
Tomorrow's match will be a re-run of last season's play-off final and, following Llanelli's reverse in Carmarthen, Buchanan believes the stakes have been raised for their game against Pontypridd.
"It dents our play-off hopes a bit and makes the game against Ponty all the more vital," he said.
"We just didn't get it right and Carmarthen did. I think the game was finely balanced, the Quins won it and we have to accept that.
"We have to move on because we've got Ponty now. We'll have to get ourselves together and pick ourselves up.
"These are the games we've got to go and win. This weekend has become more important.
"We'll be looking forward to Ponty. It's a very close encounter all the time with Ponty and I don't see this one being any different.
"We'll get the boys up for it. They'll be ready and waiting.
"It's a big game for both sides and normally very entertaining so we'll be looking forward to that."
Buchanan has made a number of changes to his starting XV, particularly behind the scrum. Justin James switches from scrum-half to wing in place of Scarlets speedster Kristian Phillips, while Diggy Bird comes in at fly-half instead of Owen Williams.
Up front the experienced Craig Hawkins replaces Kirby Myhill at hooker.
Llanelli: S. Evans; J. James, D. Jones, J. Lewis, K. Evans; D. Bird, R. Jones; R. Thomas, C. Hawkins, A. Hopkins, A. Powell (capt), N. White, L. Rawlins, S. Leach, D. Eager. Reps: S. Hopkins, T. Wilson, J. Kaijaks, C. Cross, E. Price, N. Evans, G. Walters.