WALES moved up to second place in World Cup Qualifying Group D as they beat a stubborn Moldova side 2-0 in Chisinau on Tuesday (Sept 5).
That win, coupled with the Republic of Ireland’s loss to Serbia sees Wales go above the Irish by a point but there are still two games to be played.
On Tuesday, Wales had numerous chances to go in front but came up against a Moldovan defence who were prepared to sit back and let Wales come at them.
Their first real chance of the game came on the twenty minute mark as Ramsey found Bale on the right side of the box and his shot was parried by the keeper into the path of Ramsey who saw his shot saved before Hal Robson-Kanu also saw his effort turned wide for a corner by some desperate defending.
Ben Davies also tried his luck from long range but saw his effort go just wide of the right hand post.
Moldova held on until half time as they continued to frustrate the men in yellow.
Wales continued where they had left off in the first half and it was Robson-Kanu who again came close after a nice turn but he fired his shot just wide of the post.
Ben Woodburn, hero from the Austria game with his excellent goal, was then brought on and with fifteen minutes to go he looked to have been brought down in the area but the referee waved the penalty appeals away.
With ten minutes to go Wales finally made the breakthrough much to everyone’s relief and it was that man Woodburn who created the goal with a fine run down the left wing and an excellent cross which found the stooping head of Robson-Kanu who headed home.
Wales seemed to switch off momentarily and that allowed the Moldovans in and Wayne Hennessey was forced to make a good save to turn a shot away in the first minute of time added on.
However, the points were sealed just a minute later as Aaron Ramsey’s deflected shot bounced into the net.
The hosts came back almost straight away and nearly scored when a shot cannoned back off the post but Wales survived to win the game 2-0.
With Serbia beating Ireland, they are now top of the group by four points from Wales with two games to go and it looks like Wales will have to settle for second spot if they win their remaining two games.
Wales’ next game sees them travel to Georgia before a final day showdown in Cardiff against Ireland.
Ireland play Moldova in their next game and will be favourites to pick up a win meaning all roads will lead to the capital for a decisive final game of the group stages.
Nuemann set to make first start for Wales
FULLBACK Lisa Neumann will make her first start for Wales at Donnybrook this Sunday (Feb 25) (15:00) in Round Three of the Women’s Six Nations.
The 23-year-old from Pembrokeshire is the only new player in the starting line-up to face Ireland. Meanwhile, loosehead prop Cara Hope could win her first international cap from the bench.
“Lisa has been pushing hard for a place in the starting team and she deserves her opportunity this Sunday,” said Phillips, who has enjoyed the benefit of having former Wales international Gareth Wyatt coaching the backs since the start of the tournament. “We have a lot of talented back-three players in the squad, so we think Lisa will slot in well alongside Hannah Bluck and Jess Kavanagh-Williams – two players who pose threats from the wing.”
Phillips recently spoke about his team not being burdened by an “emotional hangover” from the result at the Twickenham Stoop, and insists that preparations for Ireland have been geared towards one thing. “We need to show that we’re improving in the areas that we’ve been working on this year,” said Phillips. “This will be a game between two very evenly-matched teams, and coming off the back of the last match we’re very keen to give a good account of ourselves.”
The last time both teams met in competition was during the Women’s Rugby World Cup in August – a game Wales won by 10 points at the Kingspan Stadium in Belfast. However, Phillips says that result won’t count for much come Sunday in Donnybrook, particularly after Ireland’s winning performance in a pre-Women’s Six Nations friendly with Wales in Ystrad Mynach earlier this year.
“Ireland were competing for a Grand Slam going into the final game of the competition last year, so we know how much of a strong team they are. The World Cup was a bit of an anomaly for them, so they’ve had a point to prove since then.
“They’ve got a lot of new personnel across the board, but the team is settled and experienced. It’s up for us to show what we’re about as a team. We’ll certainly be prepared for a hugely competitive match in front of a boisterous Irish crowd this Sunday.”
Wales Women team to face Ireland:
15 Lisa Neumann (Scarlets)
14 Hannah Bluck (Cardiff Blues)
13 Kerin Lake (Ospreys)
12 Rebecca De Filippo (Dragons)
11 Jess Kavanagh-Williams (RGC)
10 Elinor Snowsill (Dragons)
9 Rhiannon Parker (Cardiff Blues)
1 Caryl Thomas (Scarlets)
2 Carys Phillips (c) (Ospreys)
3 Amy Evans (Ospreys)
4 Siwan Lillicrap (Ospreys)
5 Mel Clay (Ospreys)
6 Alisha Butchers (Scarlets)
7 Beth Lewis (Scarlets)
8 Sioned Harries (Scarlets)
16 Kelsey Jones (Ospreys)
17 Cara Hope (Ospreys)*
18 Meg York (Dragons)
19 Natalia John (Ospreys)
20 Nia Elen Davies (Scarlets)
21 Jade Knight (Scarlets)
22 Robyn Wilkins (Ospreys)
23 Hannah Jones (Scarlets)
Biggar, Williams and Halfpenny in Wales team to face Ireland
WALES have made three changes to their starting XV to face Ireland at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday (KO 14.15) with British & Irish Lions trio Dan Biggar, Liam Williams and Leigh Halfpenny all returning to the side.
Biggar has recovered from a shoulder injury to make his 61st appearance for his country and will line up alongside Gareth Davies at half-back.
Halfpenny and Williams join Steff Evans in the back-three with Hadleigh Parkes and Scott Williams continuing their partnership in the midfield.
Wales have named an unchanged pack for the trip to Dublin. The all-Scarlets front-row of Rob Evans, Ken Owens and Samson Lee feature for a third consecutive game. Cory Hill partners captain Alun Wyn Jones in the second-row with Aaron Shingler, Josh Navidi and Ross Moriarty comprising the back-row.
“It is great to be able to bring so much experience back into the starting XV and into the backline,” said head coach Warren Gatland, who will take charge of Wales for the 100th time.
“It is the first week we have had everyone in the ‘green’ in terms of availability which is a nice luxury to have and a positive ahead of what is a very important test match against a very good Ireland side.
“We have been pleased with the depth we have developed in the back-three and pleased with how those players have gone but having the experience of Dan, Liam and Leigh coming back in is hugely important.
“We have been pleased with how the forward pack has been going and how they have worked as a unit but as always there is pressure for them to perform too.”
Elliot Dee, Wyn Jones and Tomas Francis are named as the front-row replacements with Bradley Davies and Justin Tipuric completing the forward contingent. Aled Davies, Gareth Anscombe and George North provide the back-line cover.
Wales Team to play Ireland:
Leigh Halfpenny (Scarlets) (75 Caps)
Liam Williams (Saracens) (45 Caps)
Scott Williams (Scarlets) (53 Caps)
Hadleigh Parkes (Scarlets) (3 Caps)
Steff Evans (Scarlets) (7 Caps)
Dan Biggar (Ospreys) (60 Caps)
Gareth Davies (Scarlets) (29 Caps)
Rob Evans (Scarlets) (22 Caps)
Ken Owens (Scarlets) (54 Caps)
Samson Lee (Scarlets) (35 Caps)
Cory Hill (Dragons) (12 Caps)
Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys) (115 Caps) CAPT
Aaron Shingler (Scarlets) (15 Caps)
Josh Navidi (Cardiff Blues) (9 Caps)
Ross Moriarty (Gloucester) (19 Caps)
Elliot Dee (Dragons) (4 Caps)
Wyn Jones (Scarlets) (7 Caps)
Tomas Francis (Exeter Chiefs) (28 Caps)
Bradley Davies (Ospreys) (59 Caps)
Justin Tipuric (Ospreys) (54 Caps)
Aled Davies (Scarlets) (7 Caps)
Gareth Anscombe (Cardiff Blues) (13 Caps)
George North (Northampton Saints) (70 Caps)
Aber earn a point against Prestatyn
ABERYSTWYTH Town battled to a 1-1 draw against a resolute Prestatyn Town side, in a frantic JD Welsh Premier League clash at Park Avenue on Friday night (Feb 16).
Geoff Kellaway’s 78th minute header was enough to earn Aber a point after Damian Ketley had given the visitors a 20th minute lead, in a game where the home side saw a host of golden opportunities go begging.
Aber manager Nev Powell named an unchanged side from last weekend’s home victory against Llandudno, and his side got off to a bright start as John Owen struck his half volley narrowly over the crossbar after just 2 minutes.
Soon after, Aber were on the attack again as Declan Walker tried his luck from range, before Owen dragged his left footed effort wide of the post.
But it was the visitors who took the lead in the 20th minute with their first effort on target. After Noah Edwards’ corner kick was headed clear in the penalty area, the ball ricocheted for Damian Ketley who prodded the ball home inside the 6 yard box to make it 1-0.
Aber responded well to going behind, continuing to play the ball through the midfield trio of Tom Owens, Damien Allen and Malcolm Melvin, and on 30 minutes came close to finding the equaliser as Ryan Wade volleyed straight into the palms of Carl Jones in the Prestatyn goal.
The hosts continued to press for a way back into the game as Jones saved Tom Owens’ tame header, before Joe Phillips’ curling effort sailed just over the crossbar, but it was to remain 1-0 at half time with much work to do in the second 45 minutes.
Aber striker Craig Hobson was introduced at half time in place of Joe Phillips, as Town looked for an immediate impact from the target man.
Soon after the restart, the hosts saw another glorious chance go begging as John Owen chested the ball down in the penalty area before seeing his shot bounce off Jones and behind for a corner.
Then, on 54 minutes came the game’s most controversial moment, as the referee brandished a red card for Prestatyn sub Zebb Edwards after he appeared to use foul and abusive language.
This swung the momentum of the game in Aber’s favour even further, as Geoff Kellaway and Luke Borelli were introduced in place of Tom Owens and Ryan Wade.
On 70 minutes, Kellaway almost had an immediate impact as he scampered down the left flank before crossing dangerously, only for Dave Hayes to produce a vital block.
Then, on 78 minutes Aber finally found their equaliser, as Malcolm Melvin cut inside before providing an inch-perfect cross for Kellaway to glance home an excellent header beyond Jones to make it 1-1.
Suddenly the home supporters found their voices as they urged their team forwards to find the winner.
To their credit, the 10-man visitors were defending admirably, harrying and hassling Aber all over the pitch.
On 82 minutes, Town thought they’d found the winning goal, as John Owen deflected in Hobson’s glancing header, only for the linesman’s offside flag to deny the front man.
As the game entered the final minutes, Aber continued to huff and puff without blowing the house down.
In the dying seconds, the hosts pushed for one final opportunity, as Ashley Young launched the ball into the penalty area, where Declan Walker’s attempted overhead kick fell to Damien Allen, who’s right footed shot flew agonisingly wide of the far post.
Unfortunately it just wasn’t Aber’s night as they were forced to settle for a point, in a game that could have been so different had they taken their opportunities.
Nevertheless, Nev Powell’s side still remain 10 points clear of bottom side Prestatyn Town, and move to within 4 points of the Europa League play-off spot in the JD Welsh Premier League table.
Aber must now turn their attentions to Sunday’s (Feb 25) huge JD Welsh Premier League clash with west Wales rivals Carmarthen Town at Richmond Park, kick off at 5:15pm.
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