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Aston Merrygold's early exit from Strictly shocks fans

The former JLS star lost out in a dance-off with Mollie King

Gemma Strong

Aston Merrygold has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing in what has been hailed one of the greatest shocks in the show’s history. The JLS star and his partner Janette Manrara became the sixth couple to leave the competition on Sunday night, and losing out in a dance-off with Saturdays singer Mollie King and AJ Pritchard. Aston, 29, was one of the bookies’ favourite to win the 2017 series, but his Viennese Waltz didn't quite cut it on the night, with head judge Shirley Ballas casting the deciding vote and choosing to save Mollie and AJ. "In all the years we have been betting on reality TV, we don't recall a bigger surprise than this," Coral spokesperson John Hill told the Metro. "Aston was one of the most popular contestants in the outright market to win the series, while we did not take one single bet on the former JLS singer departing this weekend."

Aston Merrygold and Janette Manrara lost out in a dance-off with Mollie King and AJ Pritchard

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Viewers were certainly shocked to see the star go, with a huge number taking to Twitter to discuss the controversial decision. "WHAT?! NOOOO! Aston was my favourite, there were far worse that deserved to be in the dance off and go! I'm fuming," one wrote. Another added: "OMG I am utterly shocked. Why on earth are the public voting for who they are? Neither of them deserved to be in the bottom two." A third simply wrote: "Aston should have been in the final."

Sunday's show saw the judging panel totally divided over who to send home, with Darcey Bussell and Bruno Tonioli both opting to save Aston and Janette. Darcey said the pair had put on a "more assured performance" while Bruno said their dance had "much more power, much more impact". Craig Revel Horwood, who had shocked fans by giving Aston a score of just four on Saturday night, voted to save Mollie and AJ, saying: "Based purely on technique for me, the better dance of the evening goes to Mollie and AJ." Delivering her deciding verdict, head judge Shirley admitted it was a "very difficult choice". "On technical accuracy, beautiful flow and full engagement during the dance, I'm saving Mollie and AJ," she said.

The former JLS star was one of the favourites to win the dance competition

When asked by presenter Tess Daly if he had enjoyed his time on the show, Aston replied: "Honestly, every second of this. I've had friends who have done the show before and they've gone 'You're going to have the most amount of fun from start to finish whatever it is' and honestly they weren't lying!

"Everything, from this lady to every single person in here, these four judges, yourself, Claudia, all you amazing lot up there that I get to see and spend so much time with. I've made some amazing friends and honestly I've had the best time, it's been amazing."

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His partner Janette added: "I just have to say, honestly I don't think that I am ever going to have the opportunity to dance with someone like you again. Someone who is so talented, so lovely, such a good friend and I just have to say thank you. He is one of the most talented individuals I have ever met. You have so much to offer to the world of entertainment and I hope that this is just a small pebble to what you're going to bring the world because you are amazing. You're amazing."

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