CAPTAIN Alun Wyn Jones will lead Wales in their opening 2017 Under Armour Series encounter with Australia at the Principality Stadium on Saturday, November 11, KO 5.15pm.
Jones is one of seven returning British & Irish Lions to line-up in the starting XV for the clash against the Wallabies, alongside Ken Owens, Taulupe Faletau, Dan Biggar, Jonathan Davies, Liam Williams and Leigh Halfpenny.
Three players will make their home debut at Principality Stadium, Owen Williams and Steff Evans in the backline and flanker Josh Navidi.
Captain Jones will pack down alongside Jake Ball in the second-row, behind a front-row of Rob Evans, Owens and Tomas Francis.
Aaron Shingler and Navidi – who both featured in the two Test victories over Tonga and Samoa in the summer – start in the back-row alongside Faletau.
Gareth Davies partners Biggar at halfback with Williams named at inside centre alongside Davies.
Evans, who scored two tries for Wales in his last outing against Samoa, is part of a back-three alongside Williams and full-back Halfpenny.
Three uncapped players have been named on the bench: Dragons prop Leon Brown and Ospreys duo Sam Cross and Owen Watkin. Kristian Dacey and Nicky Smith make up the front-row replacements alongside Brown with Cory Hill completing the forward contingent. Aled Davies and Hallam Amos join Watkin as the backline replacements.
“We are really looking forward to Saturday and getting the Under Armour Series underway,” said Wales Head Coach Warren Gatland.
“I’m delighted for Steff Evans, Owen Williams and Josh Navidi that they get their first start at home, the atmosphere will be fantastic and it’s a great opportunity for them.
“It’s going to be a tough first up game, we know that and we need to be up and running. We have a squad that’s packed with talent and is on form and we are excited to see what they can do.”
Wales Team To Play Australia (Saturday, November 11, KO 5.15pm)
- Leigh Halfpenny (Scarlets) (71 Caps)
- Liam Williams (Saracens) (43 Caps)
- Jonathan Davies (Scarlets) (64 Caps)
- Owen Williams (Gloucester) (1 Cap)
- Steff Evans (Scarlets) (2 Caps)
- Dan Biggar (Ospreys) (56 Caps)
- Gareth Davies (Scarlets) (26 Caps)
- Rob Evans (Scarlets) (17 Caps)
- Ken Owens (Scarlets) (50 Caps)
- Tomas Francis (Exeter Chiefs) (23 Caps)
- Jake Ball (Scarlets) (26 Caps)
- Alun Wyn Jones (CAPT) (Ospreys) (110 Caps)
- Aaron Shingler (Scarlets) (10 Caps)
- Josh Navidi (Cardiff Blues) (3 Caps)
- Taulupe Faletau (Bath) (66 Caps)
- Kristian Dacey (Cardiff Blues) (4 Caps)
- Nicky Smith (Ospreys) (14 Caps)
- Leon Brown (Dragons) (*UNCAPPED)
- Cory Hill (Dragons) (6 Caps)
- Sam Cross (Ospreys) (*UNCAPPED)
- Aled Davies (Scarlets) (2 Caps)
- Owen Watkin (Ospreys) (*UNCAPPED)
- Hallam Amos (Dragons) (11 Caps)
Old Gold made to work for win
CARMARTHEN progressed to the Fourth Round of the Welsh Cup with an ultimately comfortable victory over Goytre United on Saturday (Dec 8) – but they were made to work hard for that achievement by the competitive Welsh League side and only secured success thanks to three moments of clinical finishing by experienced strikers Luke Bowen and Liam Thomas.
United almost took an early lead when after only 4 minutes Joe Hopkins produced a speculative long-range shot that skidded unpredictably off the saturated turf, catching Lee Idzi by surprise and forcing the experienced ‘keeper to bundle the ball clumsily around the post.
From thereon the match quickly developed into a fast-paced, end-to-end affair although, with both defences looking quite secure, no further early scoring chances arose until the 16th minute when the Old Gold went ahead after a brief spell of pressure. Luke Cummings fired a searching corner-kick into the crowded goalmouth where Bowen arrived with perfect timing to plant his close-range header past ‘keeper Luke Martin and into the back of the net.
Goytre immediately responded with a series of spirited counter-attacks but Town’s experienced and well-established back-line of Lee Surman, Dave Vincent and Jordan Knott were, as so often in recent games, in commanding form and capably resisted any serious threat to their goal – and directly ahead of them, industrious midfielders Mael Davies, Greg Walters, Cummings and Declan Carroll eagerly provided a further valuable layer of defensive support whenever necessary. Consequently, Idzi was never really tested again during this period.
Meanwhile Carmarthen’s strikers were always an available outlet, willingly using their pace and mobility to keep the home defenders fully occupied – and on 35 minutes they went close to extending their lead when, after a slick interchange of passes with Bowen on the edge of the penalty area, Sean Hanbury released a rasping strike that Martin, diving swiftly down at full length, resisted.
In the 41st minute the Old Gold were successful. Cummings, an increasingly influential figure in midfield, surged forward from the centre-circle before producing a sublime pass that set Thomas racing towards the penalty area and Town’s all-time top scorer completed this incisive move with his customary composure, smartly driving the ball beyond Martin’s reach and into the corner of the net.
After the interval the same pattern of end-to-end football soon emerged but the pace of the game had noticeably quickened with United pouring forward at every opportunity, clearly intent on reducing the deficit. However the Old Gold defence again comfortably withstood that early pressure – moreover, from those positions, deep inside their own half, they were frequently able to launch rapid counter-attacks.
On 74 minutes Carmarthen further increased their lead in just that fashion. The ball was played out of defence to Hanbury who moved forward along the left flank before firing a long cross deep into the penalty area where Bowen, with impressive anticipation of the scoring opportunity, created the time and space to power another close-range header into the net leaving Martin well beaten.
Goytre, stung by that further setback, immediately swarmed upfield and soon went close to reducing the deficit when Hopkins, from 25 yards, struck a promising drive that drew a fine save from Idzi, diving low at full stretch to turn the ball around the post.
Then on 77 minutes Rhodri Cole, from near the left touchline, delivered an inviting free-kick into the packed goalmouth but saw Adam Jenkins direct his close-range header just wide of the goal.
The Old Gold, with some rapid counter-attacking, were still posing a serious threat at the other end of the pitch. After 81 minutes Walters moved in from the left-wing and, from the corner of the penalty area, released a stunning angled volley that Martin, with a spectacular flying save, turned past the far post.
The exhilarating end-to-end pattern of play continued to the end of the match. In the 89th minute Hanbury, enjoying possibly his best performance for Town since he joined the club at the start of this season, made ground along the left touchline then lifted a huge cross-field pass that reached Bowen on the right-wing – he, in turn, fired the ball across the goalmouth where Hanbury, having enthusiastically continued his run, sadly managed only a weak shot that Martin easily gathered.
Then in added time at the end of 90 minutes a corner from United substitute Zac Brown reached Thomas Doidge in the goalmouth but from a good position he wastefully sent his looping header over the bar.
This was a highly satisfactory performance by Carmarthen playing away from home against a very capable Welsh League side (that included several former WPL players in its squad), and on a pitch made increasingly difficult by poor weather conditions which was in complete contrast to the 3G surfaces which they have regularly encountered so far this season – all the ingredients for a typical Cup upset were there but, thankfully, overcome by the Old Gold.
For their next fixture Town return to League action when they entertain Barry Town United at Richmond Park on Friday, December 14, k/o 7.30pm.
Llangennech hold off Crymych charge
LLANGENNECH secured their seventh victory of the season on Saturday (Dec 8) but only after they withstood a late Crymych fightback to win 27-24.
Llangennech started the game well and held a 17-5 lead at half time with Brandon Wood getting himself on the score sheet again.
Richard Thomas and Rhys Davies also went over for the home side while Wood was successful with one conversion.
Nick Bevan replied for Crymych to keep his side in the game going into the break.
In the second half Wood added his second try of the game which he converted and he later added a penalty to seemingly put the game out of Crymych’s reach.
Crymych had other ideas though as Iwan Mullin and Guto Davies both went over for tries while Ifan Phillips added two conversions.
Llywellyn Rees also scored for the visitors but the conversion was missed and Crymych were only three points down with some time left to play.
Try as they might they were unable to find a winning score as Llangennech held on for the win.
Crymych’s late surge ensured they would earn a bonus point for their four tries and another point for being within a score of their opponents, all of which could prove crucial come the end of the season.
On Saturday (Dec 15), Llangennech will go in search of another win as they make the long journey up to Aberystwyth. Crymych will look to bounce back as they take on Tenby United at Heywood Lane.
Spirited Blues knocked out by Aber
CWMAMMAN United bowed out of the JD Welsh Cup on Saturday (Dec 8), as they were beaten 4-3 by Aberystwyth Town at Grenig Park.
It took a late pitch inspection by the match officials to deem this cup tie on but in the end the match officials were proved correct and a real old fashioned cup tie ensued.
Both teams were keen to play and the crowd were treated to a seven-goal thriller.
Aberystwyth Town were always the favourites to win this game and they were on the front foot from the kick off.
As early as the 12th minute Aber striker Ashley Ruane rounded Blues’ keeper Chris Curtis but side footed his shot wide of the goal.
A few minutes later Aber captain Declan Walker forced a good save from Curtis.
After 20 minutes Aber got the goal that their attacking play deserved and a pin point cross by Matthew Jones found his team mate Porya Ahmadi who as unmarked and the striker controlled his shot well and hit the ball into the back of the Cwm net, 0-1.
Cwmamman’s never gave up attitude was there in abundance for all to see and the game became more of an open affair.
With 37 minutes gone Aber striker Ashley Ruane rounded Curtis again and had his effort cleared off the line.
Two minutes later Cwm played themselves down to the Aber end and from a resulting corner the visitors failed to clear the cross and Cwm’s James Bryan finally poked the ball into the back of the Aber net to level the score 1-1.
The half time whistle blew and it was Cwmamman who were buoyant as they headed for their half time pep talk.
Aberystwyth would have been a little disappointed that they hadn’t capitalised on their first half chances.
The second half was only two minutes old when a cross found the head of Ashley Ruane who powered his header into the roof of the Cwm net, 1-2.
Less than 10 minutes later it was that man again, Ashley Ruane who added the visitors’ third goal despite appeals from the home defence, 1-3.
Several minutes later the same player Ashley Ruane grabbed his hat trick as Cwm had failed to clear a thunderous shot that had rattled the Cwm crossbar and Ruane did the rest to make it 1-4 to Aber.
For most this would have been game set and match. But this Cwm team didn’t give up the cause.
Cwm responded and within three minutes they had won a free kick some 30 yards out from the Aber goal and a well-rehearsed move ended with a cross into the Aber box which was headed into the back of the net by Blues striker Chrissy Allen, 2-4.
With time running out Cwm were dominating the last 14 minutes of this cup tie and it took a fine save from Aber keeper Terry McCormick to deny Cwm a third goal.
But hold the back page as Cwm weren’t finished and continued to push forward and it was defender James Bryan who had been pushed forward from defence who found a gap in the Aber defence and found himself in a one on one with the Aber keeper.
James Bryan kept his nerve and despite a hand from Aber keeper Terry McCormick couldn’t stop the shot from going into the net off the inside of the post to make it 3-4.
With minutes to go it was Aber taking the ball to the corners to run down the clock.
Cwmamman’s players to a man had tried hard for the equaliser but as the referee’s whistle blew it was the visitors Aberystwyth who were celebrating but there were lots of tired players on both sides after a gruelling encounter on an energy sapping pitch.
On balance of chances in this game then Aberystwyth deserved to progress to the next round of the JD Welsh Cup and certainly avoided this potential banana skin but make no mistake that this Cwmamman team are a quality outfit and showed their Premier League opponents why they are in the top half of their division.
Aberystwyth Town Manager Neville Powell was obviously very pleased to be in the next round of the cup but very complimentary about the Cwmamman team in his post-match comments.
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