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Strong squad for France opener

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WALES Women head coach Rowland Philips has selected a strong side for the Women’s Six Nations opener in Montpellier on Saturday night (9pm local time).

“We made such huge progress during the autumn – especially against Canada in our final game – that it was important to continue to build on the momentum we created.”

There are two changes and two positional for Saturday’s clash from that previous Wales Test. Scarlets pair Hannah Jones and Alisha Butchers return to the side, Jones will partner Alicia McComish in the centre while Butchers returns from injury to start on the blindside flank. There is a reshuffle in the backrow with Beth Lewis starting at No 8 in place of injured Sioned Harries and Manon Johnes starting on the openside.

“Physicality will be key against France on Saturday,” added Phillips. “That is their strength and they will come out flying. That is an area we have been working on. We’ve prepared for it and now we need to keep our focus from minutes one to 80. Not only do we need to stand up to the physical challenge France will bring but we need to impose our own tempo on the game too.

“Playing France away from home is the only place you’ll experience such a cauldron in terms of the huge crowd and welcome and that’s something the players must embrace and feed off. France are the envy of the women’s rugby world at the moment and our players will certainly gain from the experience.”

The game takes place on Saturday, February 2, 9pm (local time). Live on S4C 8pm GMT:

Team: Lauren Smyth (Ospreys); Jasmine Joyce (Scarlets), Hannah Jones (Scarlets), Alicia McComish (Dragons), Lisa Neumann (RGC); Robyn Wilkins (Blues), Keira Bevan (Ospreys); Caryl Thomas (Dragons), Carys Phillips (capt, Ospreys), Amy Evans (Ospreys), Siwan Lillicrap (Ospreys), Mel Clay (Ospreys), Alisha Butchers (Scarlets) Manon Johnes (Blues), Bethan Lewis (Dragons).

Replacements: Kelsey Jones (Ospreys), Cara Hope (Ospreys), Cerys Hale (Dragons), Natalia John (Ospreys), Alex Callender (*Scarlets) , Ffion Lewis (Scarlets), Elinor Snowsill (Bristol Bears), Jess Kavanagh (RGC).

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Sport

Aber keep the pressure on

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THE battle for the League 3 West A title continues as both Aberaeron and present leaders Milford recorded bonus point wins on Saturday (Apr 20).

Whereas Milford won at a canter, Aberaeron had to really grind out the result against a Quins side who totally belied their lowly league position, very often treading a very disciplinary fine line in the process and fortunate only to receive the 2 yellow cards in the first period.

Aberaeron were missing a couple of their regular front eight and this was compelled further with an injury to prop Owain Wozencraft in the opening minutes.

Replacement Ceri Dorian Davies would not have expected such an early introduction but he proved more than a capable sub and formed a solid row with captain Danton and hooker Sion Evans, the latter imperious in finding his lineout target.

That set play proved a good source of possession with target man Dan Lewis supreme throughout the afternoon, but despite the possession, it remained scoreless for a quarter into the game. Scrambling defence and the hosts indiscipline were finally overcome as a succession of forward surges released the backline and the big frame of Tom Slinger crashed over the line.

Rhodri Thomas who has taken the role of injured namesake Jenkins fired over the additional points to soothe the nerves and two further tries were registered before the break.

The close range thrusts of Gareth James was a constant threat and the burly scrum half recorded the first of his tries with several would be defenders in his wake.

The third try soon arrived with the football finally reaching Dyfrig Dafis on the wing after a clever overlap,the conversion by Thomas cementing a 19 point advantage at the break.

The second half became a dour and frustrating affair with the Quins constant bickering and indiscretions really testing the composure of the referee.

Fortunately James relieved the tension being on the end of a break by centre Ollie Sawyer, and well supported by the Llewelyn brothers.

Thomas duly added the conversion to secure the victory, but try as they might further scores failed to materialise and it was the home team who had the final say with a debatable consolation try by Jordon Kokolin,the touchline clearly crossed in the process.

Aberaeron are away to Laugharne tonight before visiting Neyland on Saturday (Apr 27).

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Sport

Aber face must-win game

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IN their fight for a Europa League Play Off spot, Aberystwyth Town now face a must-win game against Cardiff Met on Saturday (Apr 20).

A win against the Met would put them above the Students and put them in pole position ahead of their final game away to Carmarthen a week later.

On Friday (Apr 12), Aber were held to a 0-0 draw by Cefn Druids at Park Avenue, and the Met’s win on Saturday (Apr 13) put them into the coveted seventh place.

A large crowd of 495 responded to Aber Town’s “Footy for a Fiva” initiative to watch the Black and Greens gain a valuable point from an engrossing goal less draw with their bogey side Cefn Druds. In a match of remarkably few clear cut chances defences were on top.

Geoff Kellaway and Ryan Wollacott went closest for Town and despite a late power cut both teams held out for an honourable draw.

Kick off was preceded with a presentation as Aber Town Under 19s side received their Welsh Premier Development League (South) Trophy and medals, and the Black and Greens named an unchanged outfield eleven for the fifth consecutive game.

Druids took the initiative from the start and home keeper Terry McCormick was out well to deny Jack Kenny early on.

With the Druids buzzing around Town were mostly threatening on the break and Mattie Jones made a lung bursting run down the left before pulling out a super cross, but Druids’ Neil Ashton dived in to deny Kellaway a tap in.

Photo by Colin Ewart

Jones picked out Kellaway again minutes later but the striker was called offside.

Kenny then fired wide from a great position, set up by Rittenberg, but in general it was the holding players who were shining, with Paolo Mendes and Declan Walker prominent in Town’s good defensive shape.

Marc Williams lobbed just over for Aber, then Jamie Davies brought a save out of McCormick.

Wes Baynes set up half chances for Walker and Ashley Ruane with free kicks, and Mendes headed over from Jones’ corner. Kellaway curled a shot wide and Kenny headed over for the Druids and with shots on target at a premium the half ended at 0-0.
Into the second half, and Williams curled a header just wide from Baynes’ free kick, and McCormick again did well to deny Kenny and Davies.

Steff Edwards saw a rare effort drop just over the bar and home supporters in the Dias Stand started to make themselves heard with some super singing, echoed back by the tifosi on Narks’ corner.

The two in form sides were defending solidly and chances were at a premium. Another Baynes free kick whistled past the far post, and then a Ryan Wollacott header brought Druids keeper Michael Jones into action with a smart save.

A ball from Walker almost picked out Ruane and then with two minutes to go the floodlights dramatically cut out.

After five minutes of darkness, to cheers from the supporters, the lights mercifully came back on, and in injury time sub Niall Coleridge almost got his head on a Jones cross, Ryan Kershaw fired over the bar for the visitors and the game ended in a fair and honourable draw.

The result guarantees Aber an improved eighth placed finish this season but after Cardiff beat relegated Llandudno on Saturday, Aber now travel to the Cyncoed Campus knowing they must win to keep their Play Off hopes alive.

Saturday’s match between the two sides is a huge game and every single Aber supporter is needed to cheer the boys on to a dream end to the season.

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Sport

Aber hold off Llanelli

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ABERYSTWYTH Town took another huge step towards the UEFA Europa League Play Offs with a crucial 3-2 win over Llanelli at Park Avenue on Friday night (Apr 5).

Following Cardiff Met’s defeat to the Druids on Saturday it means that Aber now hold a one point lead over the Met who they play on Apr 20.

A stunning strike from Wes Baynes on 29 minutes gave the Black and Greens the lead, and quickfire goals from Ash Ruane (49 minutes) and Marc Williams (53 minutes) seemed to have the hosts cruising, but Llanelli, who were relegated last night by a Club announcement that they will not appeal their Licence failure, hit back through Lee Bevan (63) and Joe Clarke (83) to set up a thrilling ending, which ended with Aber’s fourth consecutive win.

Kick off at a chilly and damp Park Avenue was preceded by a minute’s silence to commemorate Club Stalwart Leighton Wall, who sadly passed away after Aber’s last home game.

Aber’s unchanged team started fairly confidently, taking the initiative and soon evergreen Geoff Kellaway was flashing a shot wide of the goal set up by the peerless Marc Williams.

The visitors however were showing signs of life themselves: Michael George sent an early effort wide, then home keeper Terry McCormick came out brilliantly to deny stand in striker Joe Clarke what seemed like a certain goal.

Photos by Colin Ewart

The chances kept coming and Kellaway was adjudged to have been offside, while scoring from Mattie Jones ball in – and the goal was disallowed. Williams saw a shot saved by Scott Coughlin, then a Mattie Jones humdinger screamed past the post.

Jones then had a free kick tipped over the bar by Coughlin, and then finally a super move around the box saw Williams lay the ball back to Baynes who smashed the ball into the net for a super opener.

Steff Edwards then attempted a Cantona-esque effort from the edge of the area which dropped wide, and Llanelli were hanging on. McCormick pulled off another super close range save to deny Clarke at the other end, and headers from Declan Walker and Williams missed the target for Aber to ensure that a very entertaining first half ended 1-0 to the hosts.

Into the second half and the hosts started on fire. Four minutes in Kellaway delivered a perfect ball in from the left wing which fell perfectly for Ruane to score his second headed goal in two games.

Sub Emile Ngoy tapped in at the other end for Llanelli but his goal, like Kellaway’s earlier, was disallowed for offside, and then a simple ball up the park from the hosts was terribly misjudged by Coughlin and Williams nipped in behind him to score a third, and surely seal the game for Aber.

Ryan Edwards and Jones both curled further efforts wide for Town but credit to already relegated Llanelli, they finished the game strongly. When Lee Bevan headed home from a right wing corner to reduce the arrears there was still 27 minutes to go, and with the Reds flooding forward Ngoy headed over soon after.

Clarke sent a shot over the bar and Aber’s fans in the Dias started signing to encourage their side to hold out.

With seven minutes remaining a tricky run from George down the right saw the ball fall for Clarke who rolled his man and finally got his goal from close range for 3-2.

Ruane played a great 1-2 with Marc Williams before sending a wild shot into the new netting in front of the Dias Stand, and after a series of free kicks around Aber’s box Chris Jones’ set piece was headed over by the industrious Ngoy.

Back at the other end in injury time Marc Williams then held the ball in the corner, only to roll round a gaggle of visiting players and tickle the ball just past the post, and the job was done.

In the face of a spirited comeback Aberystwyth Town held on for what could be a priceless three points.

It was probably not a vintage performance in truth but such complaints are churlish in the face of four straight wins which have put Aber back on top of the Play Off Conference, and their UEFA Europa League dream continues on Friday night (Apr 12), at home to Cefn Druids (

ko 7.45pm).

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