AS the nation sat entranced last weekend as Wales spectacularly engineered a critical win over old rivals in their quest for another Six Nations championship and ultimately a potentially defining World Cup, attention at the Athletic Field was briefly diverted from the challenges faced by Penarth RFC.

With seven games remaining, the Seasiders are surely facing the end-game in their own search for success this season, which can be defined as survival in Division 3 East Central A.

Put simply, this means holding on to their current ninth position in the table, leaving three clubs below them and facing the possibility of relegation, depending on whether two or three of them will eventually drop into East Central B.

These three are now already condemned bottom club Cefn Coed, Gwernyfed and Clwb Rygbi Cymry Caerdydd. Penarth have already played Clwb twice, losing by one point at home at the beginning of the season and then winning spectacularly at Pontcanna Felds in October.

The only good news there is that Clwb played one of their games in hand last week and lost 27-51 to promotion-chasing Treharris. They gained a try bonus point, but still critically sit behind the Seasiders on the same points. Narrow margins.

Gwernyfed have faced their own struggles this season and now find themselves, having actually played one more game than Penarth, in a position where they have to play each other twice. Advantage Seasiders, surely.

The only way for winless Cefn Coed to play any part in the struggle is the outstanding fixtures against Penarth and Clwb Rygbi.

Which brings us to this Saturday’s fixture against who else but league leaders Fairwater!

The five points separating them from second-placed Cowbridge means that it isn’t their necks that Treharris are breathing down, but make no mistake, though, the Seasiders’ old sparring partners will be taking this one very seriously.

As will Penarth, of course. November’s game over at Waterhall Park didn’t bring any joy as they fell to a 34-10 defeat, but there were some encouraging signs as the Seasiders won the second half.

However, as Matt Bolton pointed out a couple of weeks ago, the real key to Penarth’s survival over the next two months is player availability.

Despite their lowly position and mixed fortunes this season, the Seasiders still have a strong squad including a number of players of real class on the books.

The sort of players who can make the difference between winning and losing through their own efforts alone.

We can surely trust the whole squad to throw themselves into the battle for survival, but being able to field their best line-up is surely the key to success in avoiding an unwanted second successive relegation.