WHEN you face a game such as Penarth should have played last Saturday which simply has to be won, there are all sorts of anxieties about player availability and preparation, you just have to get it right.

Of course, we now know that the wintry weather that left Penarth almost unscathed left a bone-hard pitch behind it in Talgarth, so the away match against Gwernyfed was postponed on Friday.

With no fixture due until Saturday 16th February, this gives the club a bit of a breather and time to take stock. The prospect of a second relegation in two seasons is not a comfortable one, especially with the sort of talented squad the Seasiders occasionally have at their disposal.

A further element of uncertainty is exactly what constitutes being in the relegation zone.

The vagaries of the latest overhaul of the WRU league structure has led to a position where all divisions from Division 1 down are faced with the prospect of up to three teams being relegated in each division.

The math is relatively simple in that league numbers require 10 teams to be relegated across each of the four conferences of each division.

However, the criteria by which the two 10th placed sides will be decided upon is a mystery, known only to the bigwigs at the WRU.

So how exactly do Penarth RFC find themselves teetering on the edge of the Division 3 East Central A relegation zone with only eight games to go?

As happened last season in Division 2, they began with a long losing sequence. With a number of younger players coming into the squad, a bedding-in period was to be expected, but what actually happened was ultimately frustrating.

While some parts of the team’s game flourished (19 tries in the first six games), others took a while to sort out (29 tries conceded in the same period).

At the time of writing the Seasiders have scored a total of 60 tries with young guns Spencer Robinson (9) and Rhys Beynon (7) leading the way. But that is weighed against 90 tries conceded. The question of why the defence has been so frail may have something to do with the 52 players that the side have used to date and the fact that only 6 of the squad have appeared in more than 75% of the fixtures.

There were plenty of narrow defeats that could have gone either way and then there were also bizarre contests such as the 53-36 defeat at Cowbridge which featured 8 tries from the hosts and 5 from the Seasiders.

It wasn’t until the end of October that the spell was broken in an exhilarating win at Pontcanna Fields against Clwb Rygbi Cymry Caerdydd.

This 46-23 triumph spoke of better things to come and a further two wins soon followed, only interrupted by a 34-10 defeat in the usual bar-room brawl up at Fairwater.

We could reasonably expected this to continue, but then bad luck crept back into the equation with an undeserved 16-15 away defeat at Old Illtydians in December. The new year brought the abandoned fixture at Tylorstown where Penarth were more than holding their own for 54 minutes in a high-pressure contest, but then the momentum fell away again.

Another narrow defeat followed at home to high-flying Cowbridge and then a catastrophic, best-forgotten unravelling away at Pontyclun.

Monsoon conditions last time out against promotion-chasing Treharris only demonstrated that the visitors adapted much better to the conditions rather than any huge gulf between the two sides.

The Seasiders will have to fight tooth and nail for survival in this division and it’s entirely possible that they could win all the remaining fixtures, even if the visit of leaders Fairwater might present something of a challenge.

Next up in Division 3 East Central A for Penarth is an away clash on Saturday 16th February at Penygraig, kick-off 2.30pm.