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Europa League play off fight still on

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A DOUBLE from in form Marc Williams, allied to a defensive masterclass earned the Black and Greens a vital victory over Cardiff Met on Saturday afternoon (Feb 23) at Park Avenue, which ensures the fight for a UEFA Europa League Play Off place will continue into March.

Williams opened the scoring on 58 seconds, intercepting a clearance from Met keeper Alex Lang, and repeated the trick just after the hour with a low drive from further out. Town now stand just two points behind Met on 34 points with six matches of the regular season remaining.

On a balmy day which heralded the start of Springtime, the hosts had a dream start when Williams chased down a Met back pass and keeper Alex Lang’s clearance deflected into the net off Town’s Super Sparky Striker, after just 58 seconds.

A hectic period ensued as Met’s Adam Roscrow saw a shot blocked and Dylan Rees fired over. At the other end Paolo Mendes, who was having a super game snapping at Met’s heels and breaking up play, headed wide from Wes Baynes’ free kick. The ever dependable Ryan Wollacott denied Chris Baker a chance by clearing Roscrow’s dangerous cross, and back up the field Ash Ruane almost repeated Williams’ trick by chasing down another backpass, but to no avail.

With Town sitting deep and allowing Met possession in their own half, livewire Geoff Kellaway was always a threat on the break, and when the imperious Williams won the ball and played him in he clipped the post agonisingly with a cute effort past Lang. Emlyn Lewis’ cross was easy for home keeper McCormick, and just before the break Elliott Evans’ was so close to equalising when his free kick from 30 yards brushed the top of the net, but disciplined Town held out for a deserved half time lead.

Photo by Colin Ewart

Met tried to up the pace after the break but Wollacott did well to block Will Evans, before Kyle McCarthy’s testing right wing cross flashed across goal only for Elliott Evans to hit the outside of the post at the back stick. The second half followed a similar pattern to the first with Aber defending deep, superbly, and Met struggling to find space in the final third to create opportunities.

Town threatened as Ruane then found Williams, and his flying snapshot was somehow deflected to safety, Ryan Edwards’ effort flew wide, before Harry Owen responded for Met with a grass tickler which brought McCormick into play. Then Williams intercepted the ball on the half way line and broke down the right before firing a super second low down into Lang’s bottom right hand corner, to give Aber the real scent of victory.

Aber had a penalty shout when Lewis, already on a yellow, tangled with Ruane in the box, but then McCormick pulled off a great save from Will Evans to safeguard the hosts’ clean sheet.

Some late drizzle could not dampen the hosts’ ardour, and when Will Evans’ lob sailed over the bar with three minutes to go, the job was done, and Aber had a crucial victory.

With Aber earning their first clean sheet since November top marks must go to the defensive six of McCormick, Declan Walker, Baynes, Wollacott, Steff Edwards and Matthew Jones, but Williams, Kellaway and Ruane also caught the eye going forward, and Mendes and Ryan Edwards did brilliantly at their job of breaking up play and moving Aber forward also.

Two wins and a draw from their first four matches after the split has given Aber’s season a big boost and the Black and Greens will look forward with confidence now to their next assignment, when Carmarthen Town visit Park Avenue a week on Friday, March 8, (ko 7.45pm).

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Cave Celebrates in Cork

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WELSHMAN Tom Cave took his first British Rally Championship win in a four-wheel-drive car on the West Cork Rally last weekend (March 16/17).

Along with co-driver James Morgan, the pair won the event by a mere 4.8 seconds in their Hyundai i20 R5 from reigning champion Matt Edwards (Ford Fiesta R5) in second, while defending Irish Tarmac champion Josh Moffett (Ford Fiesta R5) rounded out the podium.

Cave’s win was the first BRC win for the Korean manufacturer Hyundai since David Higgins in 2004.

The Clonakilty Park Hotel West Cork Rally formed the second round of the BRC for the very first time and the event provided two-days and over 200km of exciting rallying action. On some of the most iconic roads in Irish rallying, the weather also provided a formidable challenge as a wet and slippery first day was coupled with a flat-out blast on bone-dry asphalt on the second.

FIA World Rally Championship regulars Craig Breen and Paul Nagle took a comfortable overall win, but it was the fight in Britain’s premier rallying series that kept everyone on the edge of their seats right until the end.

Defending Irish Tarmac Champion Josh Moffett with Keith Moriarty on the notes were quickest out the blocks – making their aspirations very clear and over the course of the opening five stages pulled out a 14.4 second lead. However, driveshaft woes forced them into two-wheel-drive on stage six – dropping them down to third and out of the leading battle.

Desi Henry was another driver keen to make his mark this weekend but unfortunately, he and navigator Liam Moynihan crashed out of second on the first loop of stages in their Skoda Fabia R5, thankfully both were unhurt.

Up stepped 2018 British Rally Champion and series leader Matt Edwards and co-driver Patrick Walsh in their Pirelli-supported Ford Fiesta R5. The Welsh crew were building the pace as the opening day unfolded and went into the overnight halt with a slender lead over Tom Cave.

Cave had a heart-wrenching time on the opening round in Wales when the 27-year-old suffered a double-puncture, denying him a second-place finish. On the Tarmac of round two, the Michelin-supported driver put his Cambrian nightmare behind him as he set about his first R5 win in the BRC.

It was set-up nicely going into the final day as the two Welsh crews went head-to-head for the BRC win. Cave woke up in an inspired mood to go eight seconds quicker than Edwards and leap-frogged the M-Sport star in the process. The tussle for victory was to be a seesaw affair as the duo traded times and positions all afternoon with only 4.9 seconds going into the final stage.

Despite Edwards’ best effort, Cave was to be too strong this weekend and he and James Morgan won the BRC section of the event by 4.8 seconds to take their first BRC win together. After coming so close to an event win in recent times, Tom was elated at the finish.

“The feeling of finally winning in the BRC again is a brilliant to be honest. It was a difficult first day against the elements, but we pushed on hard on the second day to get past Matt [Edwards]. We gave it everything and we have been rewarded with first place BRC, so James and I are both very, very happy.

“After the pace on day one I felt there was more to come and we had a good feeling on the first stage on the second day and we took a lot of time out of Matt. Once that happened, I thought, lets keep pushing and we have been rewarded. I would like to thank everyone behind me for making this happen.”

As for the title, this gets his title back in the right direction.

“It’s heading the best way possible now and round one is way behind me and we always look forward. We are back in the mix and now it’s important to finish the Pirelli Rally which is up next and keep moving forward to close the gap to Matt at the top of the points standings.”

Matt did all he could, but a strong second place stretches his championship lead going into the Pirelli International Rally – the event he won last year. Josh Moffett’s rhythm was effected after his driveshaft issues, but did enough to round out the final rostrum position.

Elsewhere, Marty McCormack and Barney Mitchell couldn’t quite repeat their podium secured on the first round in their Skoda Fabia R5, but they can be happy with a fine fourth, while Jonny Greer and Kirsty Riddick (Ford Fiesta R5) chalked-up their first finish of the season as they rounded out the top-five.

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Phillips: We’ve got a big match in us

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WALES Women head coach Rowland Phillips believes his side can raise their game for their final Women’s Six Nations Test, against Ireland on Sunday (Cardiff Arms Park, 1.30).

Phillips has made two changes to the starting line-up with Elinor Snowsill starting at 10 and Alisha Butchers slotting back into the back row at blindside flanker.

Phillips said, “We want to capitalise on the confidence we’ve gained from the win over Scotland.

“We’ve shown a huge amount of character throughout this tournament – to hold Italy out at the end of that game and to come back from behind to win in Scotland showed remarkable attitude – and skill for such a young side.

“Despite that, I don’t feel we have shown how good a side we are and we’d like to do that on Sunday.

“Ireland are in a similar place as us. They played well against France last weekend. They have a strong back row and players who can make a difference. We certainly won’t be under-estimating them.

“However, we want to focus on ourselves, show what we can do with the ball and produce a better all-round performance. There’s a big game in us and hopefully we can showcase that on Sunday.”

Alisha Butchers, who earns her first start in the tournament since the opening round, is looking forward to some home comforts.

“Being at home lifts us girls massively. We’ve only had one home game this year and although England were tough opposition, we lifted our performance for our home support.

“Travelling away isn’t always accessible for our families so having them there boosts us. I love having my mum and dad and my brothers and sisters there, I can’t wait. There’s very much a family feel ethos and hopefully we can produce an entertaining game.”

“Last week’s game was really exciting and a good stepping stone for us. Moving forward I think we need to stick to our game plan, carry on working on our physicality and keep building as a team.

“Our performance was good last weekend but it can an still be better. We can use the confidence and momentum created by that victory to up our game and also spread the ball a bit more.”

Alisha is now working as a Hub Officer at Y Pant and Bryn Celynnog schools in the Pontypridd area, increasing the range of opportunities for girls to engage with rugby.

“I love it. I’ve already seen a huge increase in the number of girls playing the game and that inspires me – the thought that I’m having an impact on the next generation. They are both brilliant schools and we are getting 40 or more girls training now which is fantastic.

“Traditional 15 a side full-contact rugby isn’t for everyone so we make sure there are different formats and different opportunities all girls to enjoy taking part. A lot of them enjoyed the Rookie Rugby events we held recently, some play touch rugby, others enjoy crash mat rugby which is an introduction to contact or full contact rugby for the more established players who are keen.

“Hopefully a few of the girls – and boys – from the schools will come and support us on Sunday and bring their parents along to see what our game is all about. A few of the girls have role models within the squad, some are inspired by our captain Carys Phillips so I’ve promised they can have some photos after the match.”

Tickets available to print at home from www.cardiffblues.com/tickets and from 10am Sunday at the WRU shop, Westgate Street.

Wales Women V Ireland (Sunday, March 17, 1.30pm, Cardiff Arms Park):

Lauren Smyth (Ospreys); Jasmine Joyce (Scarlets), Hannah Jones (Scarlets), Lleucu George (Scarlets), Jess Kavanagh (RGC); Elinor Snowsill (Bristol Bears), Keira Bevan (Ospreys); Caryl Thomas (Dragons), Carys Phillips (capt, Ospreys), Amy Evans (Ospreys), Gwen Crabb (Ospreys), Mel Clay (Ospreys), Alisha Butchers (Scarlets), Bethan Lewis (Dragons) Siwan Lillicrap (Ospreys)

Replacements:

Kelsey Jones (Ospreys), Cara Hope (Ospreys), Cerys Hale (Dragons), Alex Callender (Scarlets), Manon Johnes (Cardiff Blues), Ffion Lewis (Scarlets), Robyn Wilkins (Blues), Lisa Neumann (RGC)

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Borth comeback stuns Abermule

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BORTH United welcomed Abermule to a cloudy Uppingham Fields on Saturday (Mar 9).

The match got off to a sensational start as the alert Nick Mumby gave the visitors the lead with a low shot into the bottom corner after two minutes.

However, Borth responded within a minute as Guto Huws cut in from the left wing and scored with a cool finish at the near post.

The hosts made the most of the wind on their backs as Sam Chapman broke free of the defence and scored with a rasping drive into the net.

Within a minute Chapman scored again with an identical goal to his first to give Borth a handy 3-1 lead at half time.

Abermule with the advantage of a stiff breeze held the upper hand as the second half progressed and created some good goalscoring chances.

Borth’s defence were more than capable of safeguarding Ben Willis’s goal yet Abermule reduced the deficit on seventy minutes with Ricky Davies scoring with a deft finish.

As they searched for a late equalizer they were open to a Borth counter attack and in the last minute Zak Douglas cut in from the right wing and fed a through ball for Ryan Davies to slide the ball past the keeper and guarantee the three points for Borth.

Saturday’s win will give Borth fresh impetus of giving promotion chasing Hay St. Mary’s a tough match at Uppingham Fields on Saturday (Mar 16), ko 2.30pm.

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