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Murray struggled for focus after reaching top

May 25, 2017 · Leave a Comment 


Andy Murray admits he struggled to stay motivated after a scintillating surge in form that propelled him to the top of the world rankings only a few months ago.

Andy Murray

The Briton usurped Novak Djokovic to become world number one for the first time at the end of last year, but approaches the French Open next week on a poor run.

Murray turned 30 last week but there has been little to celebrate on the court, with his latest defeat coming at the Rome Masters when he lost his second-round match to local favourite Fabio Fognini.

Rafael Nadal’s red-hot form makes him the favourite at Roland Garros when the French Open begins on Sunday and Murray told AFP in Paris: “Maintaining your motivation, your focus and concentration for a very long period is difficult.

“At the end of last year I put in a lot of effort, focus and I achieved a very big goal.

“I had a similar period after I won my first Grand Slam tournament at the US Open and also after I won Wimbledon for the first time, especially Wimbledon because I felt like there was nothing… That’s why I was playing tennis, to win Wimbledon.

“I was the first British player to win Wimbledon for such a long time. When I was done, I was like, ‘Thank God’.

“You have to reset your goals. That’s something I need to do now to look to the future and to keep myself motivated for the big events.”

Murray is renowned for his hard work on the training court and said there is no magic ingredient if he is to win Roland Garros for the first time, having reached last year’s final only to lose to Djokovic in four sets.

“Maybe at the beginning of the year, like in January and February, I was maybe still recovering a little bit from the last year. But the last two months, I just haven’t played well,” Murray said, speaking at an event in the French capital by his sponsor Under Armour.

“I had a small issue with my ankle, you know so practising and stuff with it may be not as good as it needed to be.

“I spoke to my team about that, I wanted to get back to work. To do that, I have been training very hard, spending a lot of time practising and working on my game.

“That’s the best way to get your confidence back.”

After crashing out in the third round of the Madrid Masters earlier this month to unheralded Borna Coric, Murray acknowledged his slump in form was a cause for concern.

He also suffered a shock fourth-round exit at the Australian Open to Mischa Zverev in January and told AFP that it was a tough balancing act between missing tournaments to recover while also trying to retain his prized top ranking.

“If you miss a lot of tournaments your ranking drops and people say, ‘He’s only ranked number seven in the world, he’s not that good.’

“But to get the balance of playing enough to stay at the ranking you maybe deserve or the level you feel you’re playing at, and to take enough rest so you’re able to maintain your best level for long enough, is always a challenge.”

La Liga win is bigger than World Cup for Zidane

May 25, 2017 · Leave a Comment 


Zinedine Zidane claimed winning La Liga as Real Madrid coach on Sunday surpasses his stellar achievements as a player and even lifting the Champions League in his debut season as coach last year.

Real Madrid

Madrid claimed the Spanish title for a 33rd time as Cristiano Ronaldo struck his 40th goal of the season and Karim Benzema slotted home early in the second-half to secure a 2-0 win at Malaga.

“It is the happiest day of my professional life by a distance,” Zidane said after landing Madrid’s first title in five years.

“Right now I would like to stand up here and dance,” he added in a press conference interrupted by Marcelo, Danilo, Casemiro, Lucas Vazquez and Alvaro Morata drowning their boss in champagne.

Zidane won the World Cup, European Championships and Champions League as one of the greatest players of his generation, but said the extra responsibility that comes with being coach made his achievements all the greater.

“As coach of Real Madrid you know what the expectations are,” he added.

“I have experienced it as a player and that is why I say it is the happiest day of my professional life because being a coach changes everything.

“I have won everything with this club, this shirt but to win La Liga is the best of all.

“I live what I am doing with passion and what I have enjoyed the most is today because after nine or 10 months we have won La Liga.”

Zidane’s role in restoring Madrid to the top of Spanish football was hailed by Ronaldo as the Portuguese claimed just his second league winners’ medal in eight seasons since joining the Spanish giants.

“He has managed things very intelligently along with his assistants,” said Ronaldo.

“The proof is there, we have won a very difficult league against one of the best teams in the world in Barca and for me Zidane has done a phenomenal job.”

Madrid could go onto complete a first La Liga and Champions League double for 59 years when they face Juventus in the Champions League final on June 3.

And Real’s run to the title was most certainly a squad effort with Ronaldo sidelined or rested for nine games — all of which they won.

“On a collective level I think it is my best season at Real Madrid,” added Ronaldo.

“Everyone has played minutes and all the squad have contributed.”

Madrid edged out reigning champions Barcelona by just three points after the Catalans came from 2-0 down to beat Eibar 4-2 on Sunday.

And Zidane highlighted his side’s response from losing a thrilling El Clasico 3-2 to Barca with the last kick of the ball last month by winning their last six league games as the key to the title.

“The last six games, but for sure the last three have been key,” added the Frenchman.

“To win 4-1 at home (against Sevilla), 4-1 away (at Celta) and then 2-0 today is spectacular.”

Irving, James lead the way as Cavs down Celtics

May 25, 2017 · Leave a Comment 


Kyrie Irving and LeBron James combined for 76 points as the Cleveland Cavaliers battled to a 112-99 victory over the Boston Celtics on Tuesday to move within one game of a place in the NBA Finals.


The win gives Cleveland a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series and leaves them firmly on track for a third consecutive NBA Finals showdown against the Golden State Warriors.

Cleveland, stunned by Boston in Game 3 after romping two blowout wins in the opening two games of the Eastern Conference series, looked to be heading for another shock as the Celtics dominated the first half.

Boston powered into a 29-19 first quarter lead and maintained their 10-point cushion through to half-time, leading 57-47 at the break.

But as tension among Cleveland’s home fans mounted at the Quicken Loans Arena, it was left to Irving to ride to the rescue with a sensational, momentum-changing display in the third quarter.

Irving piled on 21 points in the third period as Cleveland turned their 10-point half-time deficit into an 87-80 lead at the end of the third quarter. Irving eventually finished with 42 points.

“Coming out at half-time, I just wanted to be aggressive and lead my guys and leave it all out there on the floor,” Irving said.

“We understand the goal out here and we want to accomplish something bigger than ourselves. It’s going to take a full 48-minute game to do it.”

James, determined to bounce back after a poor 11-point haul in Game 3, then steadied the Cleveland nerves in the fourth quarter, bringing the Cavaliers home for the win as Boston’s brave effort came up short.

James, who finished with 34 points, was joined in double figures by Kevin Love, who scored 17 points with 17 rebounds and five assists.

James, Irving and Love were the only three Cavs players to make double digits.

But it was Irving who was the undeniable star of the show for his spellbinding third quarter masterpiece that transformed the game.

“The kid is special,” James said. “He was just waiting for an opportunity to blossom. I’m just happy and blessed that when I decided to come back that I was able to help him blossom.

“I’m just happy to be able to sit back, with four fouls, and see him do what he’s always been built to do. He was born for these moments.”

Love meanwhile revealed that the Cavaliers had not panicked at half-time when they trailed by 10.

“We’ve been in that position before,” Love said. “It’s just an effort all around. We’ve got a lot of guys with a lot of playoff minutes who’ve been in situations like that before.

“But while I can sit here and say that, Kyrie Irving was very special tonight.”

Boston, missing the injured Isaiah Thomas, had four players in double figures, with Avery Bradley scoring a leading 19 points.

Game 5 takes place in Boston on Thursday.

Irving said Cleveland would benefit from having been put under pressure by Boston in Game 4.

“We need to hit adversity in order to grow,” Irving said. “The only thing that matters now is to get a win back in Boston.”

Asked to give a reason for Boston’s second half problems, Celtics coach Brad Stevens had a simple answer: “Kyrie Irving and LeBron James. That’s the answer. Kyrie Irving was incredible.

“We played as well as we’d played in the entire playoffs in the first half and then for various reasons that didn’t happen in the second half. But they deserve credit. They were incredible.”

Unbeaten Crusaders block out title talk

May 25, 2017 · Leave a Comment 


The unbeaten Canterbury Crusaders have shut out Super Rugby title talk as they grapple with an arduous schedule that has them playing in their fourth country in as many weeks on Saturday.


The competition leaders are in Melbourne to play the struggling Rebels at the end of a month that has taken them from South Africa, New Zealand, Fiji and now Australia.

With an 11-point lead in the tough New Zealand conference, only three games left in the regular season and the impending return from injury of All Black Israel Dagg, the Crusaders have reason to feel confident.

Victory over the Rebels, who have lost all but one game this year, would be win number 13, equalling the record held by the 2002 Crusaders — who featured current coach Scott Robertson.

But despite dominating the competition, the seven-time champions insist they are not yet thinking about the play-offs.

“If we are already in them, tell me where and when. Who are we playing?” assistant coach Brad Mooar said, when it was suggested the Crusaders will cruise into the knock-out phase.

“There is a lot more footy to go yet. We are totally focused on the Rebels this week.”

The Crusaders’ focus may be owing to the fact that they still have to play the Otago Highlanders and the Wellington Hurricanes again, while their nearest rivals for the coveted top spot, the Golden Lions, have an easier run-in.

The top South African side, only three points behind the Crusaders, have the Southern Kings this weekend followed by the Sunwolves and Coastal Sharks.

The Crusaders are on 54 points and the Lions 51 while the Hurricanes and Chiefs, both with a game in hand, remain within striking distance on 43.

In the much-criticised competition format, which guarantees the four conference winners fill the top four places with home advantage in the play-offs, the Western Stormers (30 points) and ACT Brumbies (23) are ranked third and fourth with the Hurricanes and Waikato Chiefs fifth and sixth.

On Friday, the Chiefs travel to the neighbouring Auckland Blues whose loss to the Stormers last week saw their play-off hopes replaced by the role of potential spoilers.

The Blues have not beaten the Chiefs since June 2011, but apart from the notable exception of Jerome Kaino, they will be at near full-strength and with Sonny Bill Williams needing to impress All Blacks selectors before the squad to play the British and Irish Lions next month is finalised.

South Africa’s Golden Lions, with captain Warren Whiteley appointed this week as the new Springboks leader, play the Kings in a rare Sunday match for South African teams.

“It’s not ideal,” said coach Johan Ackermann whose Lions are looking to extend an 11-match winning streak at their Ellis Park fortress in Johannesburg.

“The reality is we’re in an era of professional sport and if the competition dictates that we play on a Sunday then we will do so.”

The Hurricanes, still without Dane Coles who continues to battle concussion symptoms, are in South Africa to play the Northern Bulls.

Africa 1 conference leaders, the Stormers, play the Coastal Sharks while the Brumbies are in Argentina to face the Jaguares.

Vettel looks to end Ferrari’s 16-year Monaco wait

May 25, 2017 · Leave a Comment 


Championship leader Sebastian Vettel will this weekend seek to increase his advantage and inflict a demoralising blow to his rivals by securing Ferrari’s first win at the Monaco Grand Prix since 2001.

Formula One - Australia Grand Prix - Melbourne, Australia - 20/03/16 - Ferrari F1 driver Sebastian Vettel drives during the Australian Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne. REUTERS/JASON REED

The four-time champion leads Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes by six points after five of this season’s 20 races, but heads into the classic 78-lap contest on the unforgiving streets of the Mediterranean principality knowing a victory could prove decisive in their tight title fight.

He knows also that there is some concern at Mercedes that their car, with a much longer wheel-base, could struggle to match Ferrari’s agility on the famous tight and twisting track where Hamilton, who loves the challenge, won last year.

The three-time champion will be seeking his third Monaco win after triumphing also in 2008 while Vettel, who won for Red Bull in 2011, is chasing his second win and, learning of Mercedes’ worries, will fancy his chances.

“At the moment, Ferrari has certain advantages there,” said Mercedes team chairman Niki Lauda.

“We will have our problems with our longest wheel-base through the tight corners. It will be even worse than in Singapore.”

Despite winning every race in Monte Carlo since 2013, Mercedes appear to be truly afraid that they will start with a disadvantage.

Valtteri Bottas, who has replaced retired world champion Nico Rosberg as Hamilton’s team-mate, warned: “A car with the longest wheelbase on a track with so many slow corners — we could be slower than them.”

Daniel Ricciardo, who lost a near-certain victory last year due to a Red Bull tactical bungle, will also be a threat to the leaders in what is expected to be an intriguing scrap in qualifying and the race.

“Last year was disappointing for me as I felt a win was on the cards,” said Ricciardo.

“But I am old enough and mature enough now to put that behind me and look forward and take back what I lost last year.”

Hamilton, however, will be certain to mount a fierce challenge for victory after winning in Spain two weeks ago and knows that he cannot afford to allow Vettel any chance to build up momentum.

The race will be billed as the 64th running of the Monaco Grand Prix as part of the world championship — though it is the 75th race since 1929 — and will see back-from-retirement former winner Jenson Button, the 2009 champion, replacing two-time champion Fernando Alonso at McLaren.

Alonso will instead be at the Indianapolis 500 while Button, making his 306th F1 start, hopes Honda’s package of upgrades can enable him to make an impressive return for Monaco’s historically most successful team.

State funds vital for the growth of rugby – Asanga Seneviratne

May 25, 2017 · Leave a Comment 


By Yohan Bhasura

President of Sri Lanka Rugby (SLR) Asanga Seneviratne believes that state funds are an essential part if the sport is to reach its peak at international level in the near future.

SLR President Asanga Seneviratne addresses the gathering. (Pic by Waruna Wanniarachchi)

He made these observations to the Daily Mirror soon after Sri Lanka ended their campaign in the Asian Rugby Championship Division One Tournament worked off in Malaysia recently.

“We started this tournament as Asia’s fourth ranked team but we cannot think of moving further up in the rankings without the backing of the Sports Ministry.”

“The three top Asian teams, Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea have allocated a sum of US $ 4 to 10 million towards their senior team alone,” explained Seneviratne.

“We should initiate a proper structure if we are to compete well against top ranked teams like Japan and other countries. First we should take care of the Under-16, 18, 19 and 20 teams. For this, we need funds”

“We have already handed over our long term plan to the Ministry of Sports. We need Rs. 100 to 150 million to develop the senior team,” added Seneviratne.

“Our juniors should also compete against the best in Asia if we are to make any further progress in the game. Playing against the best at the age of 25 is not going to help our cause at all.”

“If we take cricket, we had only the senior team playing in the beginning. But now we have teams competing at the highest level from the age group of Under-15,” emphasized Seneviratne.

“We should be able to get these funds and have a good 4 to 8 year long term plan and develop the junior teams if we are to beat the three top teams which are above us in the Asian rankings.”

“We had only a sponsorship of Rs. 6.5 million when we took over SLR in 2012. But now the sponsorship has increased to Rs. 100 million. We were able to bring professionalism into the game within these five years. Now we need to take this game into the next level,” commented Seneviratne.

“We have presented our eight year plan to the Ministry of Sports. The prime idea behind this plan is to collect the needed funds along with the Ministry of Sports to sustain the game and to develop the junior rugby teams in collaboration with the Sri Lanka Schools Rugby Football Association.”

Seneviratne also made his observations on the rest of the teams which participated in the Asian Rugby Championship Division One Tournament in Malaysia.

“Although these teams are ranked below us they are pretty strong and take for an instance the Philippines, all 15 players are competing in Australia.”

“There are five Fijians representing the Malaysia team. The Philippines, Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates are all developed countries. We have a history of over 100 years in rugby. But we are still a developing nation,” observed Seneviratne.

The President of SLR also revealed the difficulties and the obstacles they are currently facing.

“We received quite a number of sponsorships when players in the calibre of Namal Rajapaksa and Yoshitha Rajapaksa were representing the country in 2009 and 2010.”

“But we are not lacking in sponsorships just because the government changed a couple of years ago. Minister Malik Samarawickrema and Harin Fernando have continuously supported us,” added Seneviratne.

“We do not have a proper location for our headquarters. Our office and the 24 perch land which we owned were taken over by the previous government.”

“The current location is not sufficient to conduct our activities. We have requested for a suitable office from the authorities,” said Seneviratne.

“We have requested from the government to hand over us the ownership and the management of the Old Race Course. We have also requested for a suitable place to put up our headquarters at this venue.”

“I think almost 90 percent of our requirements would be fulfilled if the government could provide us with residential facilities for the National Team and a playground for training.”

“We are currently spending millions to provide these facilities for the players. I think the government should take care of these facilities. I hope the Minister of Sports Dayasiri Jayasekera will support us,” concluded Seneviratne.

Pogba sends grieving Man Utd to emotional Europa triumph

May 25, 2017 · Leave a Comment 


Paul Pogba dedicated victory to the victims of this week’s Manchester terror attack after propelling Manchester United towards a 2-0 victory over Ajax in Wednesday’s Europa League final.

Manchester United

A night that began with a moment of silence, then applause, in memory of the 22 people who died at Manchester Arena on Monday ended with United completing their trophy collection through goals from Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

Reminders of the attack were everywhere at Stockholm’s Friends Arena, from United’s black armbands to the chants of “Manchester!” from their fans, while Pogba, too, was grieving, following the recent death of his father.

“We played for the people who died,” Pogba told BT Sport.

“These things are terrible all over the world, in London and in Paris. We went out focused to win and we won for Manchester and the country.”

Victory enabled United manager Jose Mourinho, who said prior to the game that he and his players were struggling not to think about the tragedy, to bring his maiden Old Trafford season to a successful conclusion.

He had already guided United to glory in the League Cup and despite a sixth-place finish in the Premier League, success in the Europa League means his side will return to the Champions League next season.

“It is the end of a very difficult season. But a very very good season,” Mourinho said.

“There are lots of poets in football, but poets don’t win many titles. We knew where we were better than them and we exploited their weaknesses.”

United became only the fifth club — after Juventus, Ajax, Bayern Munich and Chelsea — to have won the Champions League, the Europa League and the now defunct European Cup Winners’ Cup.

Mourinho, a UEFA Cup winner with Porto in 2003 and two-time European champion, has now won all four of the major European finals he has contested.

Ajax were appearing in their first continental showpiece match since the 1996 Champions League decider and fielded a team with an average age of 22 years and 282 days — the youngest to have ever started a major European final.

Peter Bosz’s effervescent team caused United some uncomfortable moments, but without ever threatening to pull off an upset.

“Obviously both sides were affected (by the attack in Manchester), but once you play the final, for that moment you forget it,” said Bosz.

“I’m disappointed because you play finals to win them. We didn’t. I haven’t see the Ajax that I’m used to, which means good football, high pressing and being dominant.

“High pressing was difficult because Man United only played long balls and didn’t take any risks in the build-up. I think it was a boring game.”

Denied a glorious homecoming by a serious knee injury, United’s Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic was present instead as a spectator to see his current side take on the team where he made his name.

Pogba put a volley fractionally wide in the first minute and in the 18th minute he found the target, albeit with a helping hand.

From Marouane Fellaini’s lay-off, the French midfielder let fly with a left-foot shot that flicked off Davinson Sanchez’s left foot and looped past Ajax’s helplessly wrong-footed goalkeeper Andre Onana.

It was the biggest return yet on United’s world-record £89.3 million ($115.8 million, 103.2 million euros) investment in Pogba, who celebrated by pointing to the sky.

Moments later, Antonio Valencia stung Onana’s palms after a raid down the United right.

The English side then took their foot off the pedal, enabling Ajax to start finding space in dangerous areas, but within three minutes of kick-off in the second half they had tightened their grip on the game.

Juan Mata’s corner from the right was headed down by Chris Smalling and with his back to goal, Mkhitaryan held off Joel Veltman to flick the bouncing ball past Onana and claim his sixth goal in the competition.

Onana was called upon to field a header from Fellaini and United goalkeeper Sergio Romero saved from substitute Donny van de Beek.

But there was little to worry United’s fans, who continued to defiantly chant the name of their grief-stricken city as the final whistle neared.

Review: Royal secures League and Bradby first-leg in style

May 25, 2017 · Leave a Comment 


By Chris Dhambarage

Royal College are the new Singer Inter-Schools Under-20 League Rugby Tournament champions for the 2017 season.

Royal win league title

The team from Reid Avenue delivered the final blow on Saturday to regain the coveted title by overcoming the traditional rivals Trinity College 22-17 at Pallekele in Kandy.

Royal’s success had a great amount of significance as they also cleared their first hurdle in their attempt to win the prestigious Bradby Shield.

Royal will now carry a five point advantage over their rivals when they clash once again in the second-leg of the 73rd annual encounter on June 3 at the Royal College Sports Complex.

The manner in which Royal performed in this last Cup Segment fixture of the league tournament was really outstanding as they were under tremendous pressure even before the kick-off.

But they lived upto expectations as a true champion outfit while folding up twice from an early setback before recording a memorable and historic victory away from home.

Royal suffered an early setback and they were trailing 0-5 shortly after the kick-off and once again they were up against it when the home side snatched a 12-10 lead few minutes after the interval.

However, Royal seems to have made it a habit of turning things around in their favour in the second half as once again they showed their prowess by producing some exhilarating rugby during the latter stages of the game.

They scored two back-to-back tries midway in the second half through Hamza Reeza to build up a commanding lead and then held on determinedly and deprived the home side of scoring with some superb cover defence.

In fact the current season turned out to be a memorable one for Reeza who emerged as the most successful try scorer with 14 tries to his credit in the league tournament.

Isipathana vs Wesley

Isipathana College produced a splendid second half rally to beat Wesley College 28-0 in their Singer Inter-Schools Under-20 League Rugby Tournament final Cup Championship fixture played at Havelock Park.

This victory also ensured Isipathana the runners-up position in the league points table as they concluded the proceedings in the league tournament on a high note.

Even then, Isipathana probably expected a tough challenge from their opponents in this vital game but quite surprisingly they had things almost to their liking especially in the second half.

In fact, Wesley never looked the same team as they had performed in the earlier matches as they surrendered to their opponents quite meekly in their final outing.

The Wesleyites of course managed to apply some pressure to their opponents in the first half as Isipathana struggled initially and took a slender 8-0 lead at the break.

However, once they got their act together well and settled down, the home side really went on the rampage and added four more tries to their tally in the second half which helped them to complete a rousing victory in the end.

St. Peter’s vs S. Thomas’

S. Thomas’ College came from behind with a tremendous performance to force a thrilling 25-25 draw to their Singer Inter-Schools Under-20 League Rugby Tournament second-round fixture against St. Peter’s College worked off at Bambalapitiya.

This was no doubt a major setback for the Peterites considering the fact they started the match as favourites following some impressive performances in their earlier matches.

But the Thomians who were trailing 12-15 at half time came back strongly in the second half and went on to share the honours with their rivals while collecting their points from two goals, one try and two penalties.

The Peterites of course made a promising start as they took the initiative and set the pace for a convincing victory at one stage but had to settle for a draw in the end with their points coming through two goals, one try and two penalties.

Even then, S. Thomas’ had the satisfaction of retaining the Archibald Perera Memorial Trophy by virtue of their victory in last year’s encounter.

The Thomians could have even snatched the game from the jaws of defeat as their reliable place kicker Dion Dias fluffed an easy under the post penalty during the latter stages of the game.

St. Joseph’s vs Zahira

St. Joseph’s College had the satisfaction of concluding the league fixtures on a high note as they powered their way to a resounding 38-14 victory over Zahira College in their match played at Welisara.

The Josephians collected their points from one goal, five tries and two penalties while Zahira responded with two goals.

The Joes of course got off to a splendid start as they built up a commanding 18-0 lead at half time while scoring three superb tries and also fired across a penalty during a dominant performance.

However, Zahira hit back in the second half and surprised their opponents as they managed to touch down on two occasions and also converted both tries to keep their hopes alive.

But St. Joseph’s added the finishing touches in style as they went on to plant three more tries in the second half and also fired across a penalty to increase the lead to put the issue beyond doubt.

Navodya wins bronze in Thailand

May 23, 2017 · Leave a Comment 


Sri Lanka’s Navodya Sankalpa won the Bronze Medal in the Boys’ 400 metres hurdles on the final day of the Second Asian Youth Athletic Championship which concluded at the National Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand on Tuesday.

The schoolboy from Mahinda College clocked 53:86 seconds to finish behind the winner Halomoan Edwin Bisar (51.96 seconds) of Indonesia and Ting Hsuan Huang of China who returned a time of 52:49 seconds.

This was Sri Lanka’s second medal at the meet after Harsha Karunaratne won the Silver Medal in the Boys’ 800 metres event on Sunday (21).

Sri Lanka finished 17th in the overall medals tally with China taking the top spot with 16 Gold Medals.

Meanwhile, Santhush Weerasinghe had to be satisfied with the fourth place in the Boys’ 200 metres event with a personal best time of 21:92 seconds.

In addition, Ashmika Herath was not allowed to compete in the Girls’ 2,000 metres steeplechase event after having violated championship rules.

Mourinho says Manchester attack victims in United’s ‘minds and hearts’

May 23, 2017 · Leave a Comment 


Jose Mourinho said the victims of a deadly bomb attack in Manchester were in the “minds and hearts” of his squad as Man United prepared for Wednesday’s Europa League final against Ajax in Stockholm.

Manchester United players and staff stand for a minute of silence during training honouring the people killed and wounded in an explosion at Manchester Arena

Britain’s deadliest attack for 12 years saw 22 people killed, including children, and 59 injured when a bomb went off at a concert by US pop star Ariana Grande at the Manchester Arena on Monday.

“We’re all very sad about the tragic events last night; we can’t take out of our minds & hearts the victims & their families,” said Mourinho in comments posted on United’s Twitter feed on Tuesday.

“We have a job to do & will fly to Sweden to do that job. It’s a pity we cannot fly with the happiness we always have before a big game.”

Mourinho, who only joined United last year, added: “I know, even during my short time here, that the people of Manchester will pull together as one.”

The Portuguese boss’s Twitter comments were set to be his only public statement of the day after United had earlier announced they were cancelling Tuesday’s scheduled pre-match press conference in Stockholm.

“Due to the tragic events in Manchester last night and the effect that this has had on everyone here at our club and within our city, we have decided to cancel this evening’s pre-match press conference in Stockholm,” United said in a statement.

“We are sure that, in the circumstances, you will all understand our position on this matter.

“Our thoughts are with the victims at this terribly difficult time.”

Four-goal Kane eyes golden boot after crushing Leicester

May 19, 2017 · Leave a Comment 


Harry Kane staked his claim to finish as the Premier League’s top scorer with a scintillating four-goal blast in Tottenham’s 6-1 demolition of Leicester on Thursday.


Although Tottenham were unable to overhaul champions Chelsea in the title race, Mauricio Pochettino’s vibrant young side look certain to make a renewed challenge next term and Kane is the figurehead of that bright future.

Kane is hunting the league’s golden boot and the England striker was at his predatory best as he plundered the Leicester defence four times to move to the top of the scoring charts with 26 goals.

Everton’s Romelu Lukaku is second on 24 goals but Kane is well on course to nail down the goalscoring prize heading into Tottenham’s final fixture at Hull on Sunday.

South Korea’s Son Heung-Min scored twice for Tottenham, who swept to their 11th win in their last 12 league games after Leicester’s Ben Chilwell briefly reduced the deficit in the second half.

Tottenham, already guaranteed to finish second, now have more points than Leicester won the league with last season, but if Pochettino’s players were frustrated at falling short in the title race, they haven’t let it show.

Foreshadowing their imminent goal spree, Tottenham started with a swagger and nearly took the lead when Kane’s pass picked out Son, only for Chilwell to deny him with a last-ditch block.

Son’s movement was too clever for Leicester again moments later as he turned quickly and shot over.

Despite Tottenham’s pressure, they were lucky not to fall behind when Jamie Vardy scythed through their defence.

Accelerating onto Riyad Mahrez’s deft pass, Vardy had only Hugo Lloris to beat, yet he wastefully blasted straight at the Tottenham goalkeeper.

Unfazed, Pochettino’s team should have taken the lead when Son collected Dele Alli’s defence-splitting pass and blazed over with just Kasper Schmeichel to beat.

Kane was a constant menace and he went close with a curling effort before underlining his predatory excellence in the 25th minute.

Jan Vertonghen’s long pass targeted a penetrating run from Son and, with Leicester caught flat-footed, the South Korean quickly picked out Kane, who arrived on cue to guide a clinical finish past Schmeichel from close-range.

Although Leicester had a penalty appeal rejected after Toby Alderweireld collided with Vardy, Tottenham were proving impossible to subdue and the visitors doubled their lead in the 36th minute.

Alli was the catalyst, taking possession on the edge of the area and impudently bypassing the Leicester defence with a sublime chipped pass to Son, whose half-volley lacked power but still had enough accuracy to beat Schmeichel.

Son’s 20th goal of the season was just reward for Tottenham’s dominance, but Leicester got one back in 59th minute.

Despite replays showing he was marginally offside, Vardy was allowed to sprint onto a through ball, prompting Lloris to rashly race well outside his area in a failed attempt to clear.

When Daniel Amartey poked the ball to Chilwell, the Leicester defender steadied himself before firing home via Eric Dier’s out-stretched foot.

Even that needless setback couldn’t ruffle Tottenham and they responded with a well-worked third goal four minutes later.

Alderweireld looped a cross into the Leicester area and Victor Wanyama nodded back towards Kane, who reacted quickest to head in from close-range.

Kane turned provider for Tottenham’s fourth goal in the 71st minute as his pass teed up Son to flash a fine finish past Schmeichel.

With Leicester’s minds turning to their post-season holidays, Kane had acres of space to pilage the hosts’ defence and he completed his hat-trick with a superb 20-yard strike in the 89th minute.

Kane wasn’t finished yet and he produced a carbon copy of his third goal in stoppage-time, driving home from the edge of the area to put the seal on his goalscoring masterclass.

Unbeaten Crusaders down Chiefs to stay top

May 19, 2017 · Leave a Comment 


The Canterbury Crusaders maintained their unbeaten run with a 31-24 win over the Waikato Chiefs in Suva on Friday, extending their lead at the top of the Super Rugby table.


The Crusaders only scored three tries to four against their closest New Zealand rivals but fly-half Richie Mo’unga’s two conversions and four penalties gave them the win.

The result boosts the Crusaders chances of finishing top of the ladder and claiming the reward of home-ground advantage in the play-offs.

Captain Sam Whitelock said it was pleasing to see his backline take control after the forwards delivered victory against the Wellington Hurricanes last week.

“The whole year we’ve had the balance right between forwards and backs,” he said.

“Either unit can step up when they need to, that’s awesome as a captain.”

There was a concern for All Blacks selectors when Crusaders centre Ryan Crotty left the field with possible concussion, adding to a growing injury list ahead of the British and Irish Lions series.

But they could take heart from the fact that fly-half Aaron Cruden was in sparkling form, despite being on the losing side.

The fixture was nominally a Chiefs home game but they moved it to Fiji to recognise the contribution Pacific islanders make to New Zealand rugby.

The meeting between New Zealand’s top-performing sides lived up to expectations as the lead changed four times before the Crusaders took control in the second half.

The Chiefs looks set for an upset win with a 17-13 lead at the break but conceded too many penalties as the Crusaders remained disciplined.

Cruden set up the opening try, accelerating into space then sending a floating pass to set up Tim Nanai-Williams on the wing.

He then followed up with a kick from deep within his own half that bounced perfectly for the onrushing James Lowe.

The Crusaders hit back with a Heiden Bedwell-Curtis try but the Chiefs scored another when Kane Hames managed to ground the ball through a tangle of bodies.

The Crusaders began the second half with a magnificent David Havili try after Richie Mo’unga intercepted a Cruden kick and sparked an attack that left the Chiefs defenders grasping at air.

Ben Funnell consolidated the lead off the back of a jinking Mo’unga run, only for Cruden to claw one back for the Chiefs after dodging past three defenders.

The Chiefs had a late chance at a lineout but squandered it by knocking on the ball.

Royal-Trinity should be a thriller with title on the line

May 19, 2017 · Leave a Comment 


By Chris Dhambarage

A rousing game of rugby is expected when the traditional rivals Royal College and Trinity College clash in the first-leg of the 73rd Annual Bradby Shield Inter-Schools encounter which will be played at Pallekele in Kandy on Saturday (20).

This match is of great significance for both teams as the winners are also assured of emerging Cup Champions in the 2017 Singer Inter-Schools Under-20 League Tournament.

Both teams have cleared some of the toughest hurdles on their way during their first-round matches as well as in the Cup Segment of the league and are really determined to showcase their talent and potential.

In fact, Royal and Trinity have figured in some of the most fascinating inter-school rugby games in the recent past and last year’s fixture was a classic example of their rivalry.

In a dramatic turn of events to the 2016 encounter the Bradby Shield was shared,only for the second time in the history of the series, after both teams ended with the same aggregate.

Royal clinched the first-leg 22-17 in Colombo but Trinity took the second-leg 18-13 at Pallekele and the two teams had collected 35 points each.

This year too, Royal and Trinity have maintained their reputation as two of the pioneers of the game with some dazzling rugby throughout the current inter-school season.

Even then, both teams suffered a minor setback midway in the season with Royal going down to Isipathana College (17-22) on their home grounds and Trinity losing to St. Peter’s College (13-15) at Bambalapitiya.

But apart from these two obstacles, both teams have looked quite formidable on the field and now they have set up a fascinating contest in this final week of the league tournament.

Both teams will also take the field with a great amount of confidence after having recorded morale boosting victories in their previous outings played last week.

In fact, Royal signalled a clear warning to their rivals as they warmed-up for the Bradby Shield in style while recording a comprehensive 35-19 victory over Wesley College in a vital encounter.

In contrast, Trinity had a tough outing as they were stretched to the maximum before pulling off a hard fought 15-10 victory over the reigning league champions Isipathana at Pallekele.

The key player for Royal will be their dynamic flanker Hamza Reeza who has already made a lasting impression in the current season while emerging as the most successful try scorer in the league tournament.

Reeza is in tremendous form having scored two match-winning tries in last week’s vital game against Wesley and in the previous outing he went on the rampage to score five tries against Zahira College.

In addition, Janidu Dilshan (7 tries) and Sabith Feroze (6 tries) have also been consistent try scores for Royal in the current season with Mohamed Shaqir living upto expectations as a reliable place kicker.

Trinity’s main weapon will be Diluksha Dange who has scored eight tries in the league tournament while Reshan Madena and Akitha Sakalasuriya have scored five tries each.

Trinity will be also hoping for an improved performance from their place kicker Lashane Wijesuriya who has experienced mixed fortunes in the current season.

LeBron ties record with 11th All-NBA pick, Harden unanimous

May 19, 2017 · Leave a Comment 


Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James matched a record with his 11th All-NBA First Team selection while Houston guard James Harden was a unanimous choice, the NBA announced Thursday.

Cleveland Cavaliers v Boston Celtics - Game One

Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook, San Antonio forward Kawhi Leonard and New Orleans center Anthony Davis were other selections to the select squad, chosen in a global media vote.

None of the Golden State Warriors roster were included in the first team.

James joined Kobe Bryant and Karl Malone as the only players in NBA history to make the First Team 11 times.

Harden was selected to the First Team on all 100 ballots while Westbrook, who joined Oscar Robertson as the only players in NBA history to average a triple double for a full season, and James, who set career highs in rebounds and assists and led the league in minutes played, were chosen on 99 ballots with Leonard on 96.

Davis had the narrowest call with 45 First Team votes to 43 for Utah’s Rudy Gobert, edging him 343-339 in total points with five for first team votes, three for second and one for third team selections.

Harden made the First team for the third time in four years while Davis, Westbrook and Leonard each made their second appearance on the list.

Harden averaged career highs of 29.1 points, 11.2 assists and 8.1 rebounds a game, leading the NBA in assists and finishing second in scoring to propel the Rockets to the NBA’s third-best record at 55-27. Harden led the NBA by making 746 free throws and hit 262 3-pointers, third in the league.

James, in his 14th NBA campaign, ranked eighth in the NBA with 26.4 points a game and averaged career highs of 8.7 assists and 8.6 rebounds.

The All-NBA Second Team included Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo of Greece, Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas, Gobert and two members of the Warriors, guard Stephen Curry and forward Kevin Durant.

The All-NBA Third Team consisted of Chicago forward Jimmy Butler and Golden State forward Draymond Green, center DeAndre Jordan of the Los Angeles Clippers, Toronto guard DeMar DeRozan and Washington guard John Wall.

Other NBA awards, including Most Valuable Player and Coach of the Year, will be revealed June 26 at the new NBA Awards Show in New York.

Cavaliers again flirt with historic playoff start

May 19, 2017 · Leave a Comment 


LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers are on the verge of making their second consecutive 10-0 start to the NBA playoffs when they face the Boston Celtics on Friday.


The defending NBA champions ripped the Celtics 117-104 in Wednesday’s start of their best-of-seven Eastern Conference Final series with game two Friday in Boston.

“We did a good job of coming out, throwing the first punch,” said Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue.

Cleveland swept past Indiana and Toronto in the opening rounds and could match last year’s 10-0 playoff start, one shy of the best in NBA history, with another road triumph.

“I have to be in attack mode and just put the pressure on the defense and see what happens,” James said. “The energy and effort and mindset was where it needed to be starting on the road, especially in the Eastern Conference Finals.”

James scored 38 points, grabbed nine rebounds and made seven assists against the Celtics in game one, giving him 35 or more in five consecutive games and at least 30 in seven as he raises his game the nearer he gets to reaching a seventh consecutive NBA Finals.

“He’s playing at a high level right now and that’s the reason why we’re riding him so much,” Lue said. “He’s really setting the tone for us in these playoffs. We’re just kind of riding it.

“When LeBron is playing at this level, other guys just have to be solid and I think we’ve got a good chance of winning the game. Let’s see if we can just keep this up.”

Cleveland could become the first team to make 10-0 playoff starts in consecutive seasons. Golden State is off to a 10-0 start in the Western Conference, the Warriors two games from their third consecutive NBA Finals and a possible third consecutive meeting with the Cavaliers there.

The record NBA playoff start of 11-0 was accomplished twice by the Los Angeles Lakers, in 2001 when they dropped only one game on the way to the title and in 1989 when they reached the final only to be swept by Detroit.

One secret to Cleveland’s success has been to take advantage of the rest during breaks between rounds but practice as if every game is a must-win situation.

“We put in a lot of work,” James said. “We’ve been on the practice court or in the weight room training as if we were playing. There’s no way you can substitute a game. But the work that we put in this week, we just tried to be as up to speed as possible when the game did come.”

The Celtics rotated defenders on James to no avail, unable to wear him down, and barely able to slow him down.

“It’s not an individual matchup for me, no matter who’s in front of me. My mind is always racing on how I can make this the best possession at that particular time,” James said.

“I know how many guys I’m going to see throughout the course of a game. The only thing on my mind is how we can execute the best way and get a bucket, either if I can get myself a shot or if I can drive, get my shooters a shot, or if I can get a double-team in the paint or get to the free throw line.”

That group effort has allowed guard Kyrie Irving and forward Kevin Love to take their share of the load off James and play swarming support defense against top rival scorers, forcing shots from players unaccustomed to carrying the task of point production.

“We wanted to come in and set the tone and dictate the game and we felt like we did a good job of doing that,” Love said. “We felt like we could have played better and there are some things we’ll look at that will be better for Friday.”

Fitness is key to success for Tony Opatha

May 18, 2017 · 1 Comment 


By Shehan Daniel

Whether it was opening the bowling against some of the greatest batsmen to play the game or constructively calling out the cricket board, Tony Opatha has never been one to shy away.


A confident and cocky cricketer, Opatha’s international playing career was brought to an end prematurely in 1983 after he and a group of Sri Lanka players undertook a rebel tour to South Africa, banned from international cricket at the time because of the apartheid regime. Opatha was crucified for eternity for that decision, being singled out as the person who led that tour, and he spent almost three decades away from the country plying his trade as a coach in the Netherlands, Ireland, South Africa and Bangladesh.

Opatha speaking to the Daily Mirror in an exclusive interview elaborated on his involvement in that tour, also sharing his views about where the current national team stands.

Q: You played at a time when cricket was not as lucrative as it is now. Did you plan out your career and was life after playing something that was always on your mind?

I never planned my cricketing life. I took it the way it came and I worked hard at it, and as time went by I developed myself in how everything has to be done. I worked myself to the future but not by making plans. It came naturally over time, and if you want to develop yourself as a cricketer you have to sacrifice a lot — the way you train, the way you apply yourself, the amount of concentration, the amount of confidence, all those things come as a package, and I worked at that. As I used to say, there are a lot of cricketers behind you, to fight for your place, so if you want to be the best there is a lot of hard work to outbid all the bowlers who want to take my place. I was always full of confidence that I can achieve that because I knew that the first thing I needed to do was to be 100 per cent physically fit. Concentration, performance, success — everything is based on fitness. I gave my life to that, killed my body. We didn’t have gyms those days — my gym was chopping wood to strengthen my arms, running at the beach, on the road at 5.30 in the morning. I also never had a coach — today there are more coaches than players when they tour. It’s unnecessary. If you have a weakness you develop yourself, take two three extra hours to work on your skills.

I had to retire to be honest. Going on that tour of South Africa, forced me to retire. After that tour I was told that I couldn’t work here, so then I got a break in Holland, to coach one of the top clubs in their domestic league, and I did very well there, winning the championship several times. I ended up spending 21 years there and coached nine clubs, and then helped the national team, also serving as manager of the World Cup team. I was also involved with their ladies’ team, taking them to four European Cups and two World Cups. I then spent a year in Ireland, and then two years in South Africa before going to Bangladesh for a year. And then I came back to Sri Lanka and carried on, also focussing on my charity work.

Q: What was it like playing for Sri Lanka at that time? And do you see parallels between the game now and the game then?

I think the only thing we lacked was the Test status which we should have got about 10-15 years before. We had some excellent cricketers. I don’t think even Arjuna Ranatunga was good enough to get into the team when we were playing, although he was a good cricketer. That side was tremendous. We beat teams; we beat India in the World Cup, we lost to Australia by 18 runs, with Jeff Thomson and Dennis Lillee.

If I was to look at today’s cricket and the cricket we played I think we played top cricketers. The quality was such that teams had depth in quality. Everybody could bat or bowl. Today you have to find ‘a’ batsman or ‘a’ bowler. That was not the case when we played. I used to go in at seven or eight, and get fifties.

I also think T20 cricket is more circus cricket than actually cricket. It’s great to pull in crowds and to entertain them, but don’t take that as cricket. With T20 and 50 over cricket, Test cricket died, which I am sad about. (When I played) Test cricket was where the quality of cricket was but today it’s not as popular.
Whenever we played, we played hard, and we had a battle between bat and ball. But after the game we’re best of friends. That friendship through sportsmanship was there, which is not so evident today. That’s poor. You play the game in the middle, but away from the pitch we’re just friends.

Q: About that tour to South Africa in 1983, the rebel tour, you were painted as a key figure in planning that tour. What was your involvement with it?

I can only say that I am partly responsible, but it was not Tony Opatha alone. There was a committee, like Duleep Mendis was the main man selecting the team, Roy Dias, Lalith Kalluperuma and they selected the team, because I was not in the country, I was in Holland. Of course I arranged the team and the tour and they gave me the backing — they told me to — and we went to South Africa.

Everything came on me, while all these other people were also involved, and they thought I did all the damage which is not true. I got contracts of these guys who signed to go to South Africa and they signed the contracts before they went on the tour to India, where Duleep got two hundreds after getting zeroes, and when they came back he was offered the captaincy over Bandula Warnapura and they (Mendis and Dias) crossed over. Even before the tour of India they had signed contracts. But they got the whole team signed and confirmed and later put the blame on me. That was my reason to retire.

There was an incident before the first test, they had a trial, and in this trial I got the first four wickets and I was 47* and they stopped me from batting. After that when they selected the team I was not in the 25. So I was a bit sad, and when this South Africa tour came up, with the backing of my other friends, I thought (I would take it). There was no cricket at that time, because of the war, and hardly any teams came to Sri Lanka, so we were getting just old and there was no money with us, so when this opportunity came we went to South Africa. I feel sorry, because it was the wrong decision I made. (Actually) With two days to go, I refused to go, but the team mates said since I was partly responsible not to back out. I was 29 at the time, so I wasn’t young, and I took that decision because there was no cricket. That was the reason for me to do that.

Q: Did you regret undertaking that tour?

When I saw the apartheid there and how the poor people were treated, I understood the gravity of it and I wondered why I went on that tour. But we all make mistakes, and I apologized for that. They made me look like the biggest mafia murderer, and I didn’t do anything like that. I just went and sold my talent and earned some money. And at that time the country was doing business with South Africa, so South Africa was good trade but not for cricket. The punishment — a 25 year ban — was too harsh. When I returned there were numerous death threats made to me and I was fortunate to have had police protection. It was sort of a political punishment rather than a cricket punishment, but I didn’t want to go into any type of argument. Even today the cricket board thinks I should be punished.

Q: You have always been outspoken about the national team. Where do you assess the team being at the moment?

If I take the Sri Lankan cricket team now, I think we’ve got a good cricket team. They lack experience and confidence, they lack physical fitness but in another couple of years our national team will be ready to face world cricket. We’ll still be at a handicap, where we are lacking good pace bowlers, a good spinner — we’ve got only Rangana Herath and now he’s on his way out. Then we have Angelo Mathews who has had loads of injuries who is not fit. We’ve also got aging cricketers, like Upul Tharanga. Have we got replacements for these players? No. What is the fault? It’s because the Sri Lankan cricket board is not looking into the youth enough. We should have an Under 21 tournament, to compliment the Under 23 tournament. This is our nursery. This is where we have to jump and get proper coaches, who will look for talent, take their names, put them into a squad, and from there we can build them — our future Test cricketers, future match-winners. We are lacking in that area. I urge the cricket board to open their eyes and not make this mistake, this very big mistake (of neglecting the youth) for Sri Lanka cricket.

Bringing Wasim Akram for a week is a joke. Bringing Allan Donald in for two months, is a joke. We have cricketers like Champaka Ramanayake, Chaminda Vaas, Pramodya (Wickremasinghe), and other good local coaches. If you’re bringing in these types of coaches from abroad, then (you’re saying that) these coaches are not good enough. I also believe that our selectors have been too quick in dropping players. How do you make a team when you do that? How are you going to build a team? If they are good, and are selected on merit, give them five or six chances. Fitness is also an area where we are lacking. Consistency, concentration, dedication, results — all that comes in through fitness. Players these days train in comfort, in Air Conditioned gyms and when you put them out in the sun, they can’t bowl more than five overs without getting tired.

Something else we do wrong – and this is a sad story – is that every new president who comes in, brings in all the people who supported him, who are not qualified enough, into important posts. There is a lack of professionalism. And it’s a fault of all the cricket boards than have come into power.

Q: Administration was one area where you were never involved. Was it something you actively avoided?

They took that South African tour so bitterly, and they still are. Honestly, they will never get people who are pushy and know the game. They know I am capable and that I can contribute to this cricket board, but they know that I will only get people who are capable. Our cricket administration style is wrong. There are wrong people at the positions that are important for development. They don’t have the experience or the knowledge and background to produce what is required.

Q: You played at a time when cricket was blessed with big characters and personalities. Any particular players you liked bowling to?

I always liked to bowl to good cricketers. It was a battle bowling to batsmen like Viv Richards, Clive Lloyd, Alvin Kallicharran, Roy Fredericks or Sunil Gavashkar. (I always said) Getting a good batsman is easy, getting a bad one is difficult. So I enjoyed every game I played because I liked to perform and give my team and country the best. I always said you play for your team and your country, and (so you need to) perform. I enjoyed my cricket, and I was a cocky man.

Q: You have been outspoken about coaching as well. Do you think teams have too many coaches involved in their set-up?

Today you have about 12 coaches, more than the players. You don’t need to be teaching players the basics at this level but that is what modern cricket has become. I’m not against this. (But in Sri Lanka) There is no place for our own players. Look at Mahela (Jayawardene) — he wasn’t given a place so he went to England. They didn’t utilise Kumar Sangakkara, so he also went to England. (Chandika) Hathurusinghe, they didn’t give him a place, he went to Bangladesh. Sri Lanka have had a complex problem (they don’t see local coaches as being good enough). They take the foreign coach’s word as gospel. That is a country, it’s in our culture. This is evident even recently, when they brought Wasim Akram and Allan Donald (demoralising local coaches).

Q: What defines a good coach, in your opinion?

A good coach produces results. Produces match-winning players. You’ve got to be in front of the players, not in between. As a coach you have to have to distance yourself from the players and have that respect. That is why the board made a mistake in making Marvan Atapattu the national coach. It was too early for him. Half of the team played with him. He’s a good coach but he was appointed at the wrong time.

Q: What was the experience of coaching in a country like the Netherlands where cricket was not as popular as Sri Lanka, like?

If you see, Holland played in three world cups and in my time there I produced about 18 national players, who I coached from a young age. It’s the way those guys work at it, and come for training. They are not fanatic cricketers, but when they play they are fanatic. Our cricketers are not fanatic enough, they’ve become easy going and lazy. The character of our players is a big problem. When we played, if you are lazy you’re starving (because you’re not getting paid). Today cricketers have everything, even if you don’t win matches you get your money.

SL record easy win over the UAE

May 17, 2017 · Leave a Comment 


By Yohan Bhasura reporting from Malaysia

Sri Lanka made it two wins out of two games in the Asian Rugby Championship Division One Tournament after beating the United Arab Emirates (UAE) 33-17 in Malaysia on Wednesday.


Sri Lanka’s 33 points came through four tries and three penalties put over by fullback Thilina Wijesinghe, who was also successful with the two conversions.

The UAE fielding a team full of expatriate players managed to collect their points from two goals and a penalty in a game played in searing heat with temperatures rising to 35 degrees celsius.

However, it took Sri Lanka less than a minute to open the scoring with flyhalf Fazil Marija scoring an unconverted try but his opposite number Andrew Stevenson reduced the lead with a fifth-minute penalty.

But Wijesinghe restored the early lead two minutes later when he put over the first of his three penalties.

Five minutes later lock forward Sharo Fernando ran in Sri Lanka’s second try before number eight Glen Moore’s converted try seven minutes later reduced UAE’s deficit to one point.

Outside Centre Danushka Ranjan changed that however, two minutes later when he scored a try which was converted by Wijesinghe.

But the centre was soon off the field after hurting his shoulder. While the extent of the injury was unknown a team official later confirmed that it was not serious.

Wijesinghe put over another penalty in this half to give Sri Lanka an 18-10 lead but Andrew Powell’s injury time converted try made it a one-point game at the break.

However, that was as close as the game got as inside centre Lee Keegal and flanker Jason Dissanayake ran in converted tries which proved to be the only scoring in the second half.

Manchester City eye top four boost to mark Zabaleta farewell

May 15, 2017 · Leave a Comment 


Pablo Zabaleta’s farewell is likely to garner much of the attention as Manchester City host West Bromwich Albion on Tuesday, but Pep Guardiola’s side still have work to do to secure a Champions League place.


It was confirmed on Saturday that full-back Zabaleta will leave City at the end of this season after nine years at the club, with West Ham his likely destination.

The Premier League match against Albion will mark his final home appearance, and the club are planning tributes to mark the occasion.

Guardiola believes City need more players with Zabaleta’s commitment if they are to succeed in the future.

“It’s important to have players like Pablo in the team,” Guardiola said.

“Pablo is a real legend in what he has done in the club, he has helped with his team-mates at the club to make a step forward, to try to compete to qualify for the Champions League, sometimes to win the Premier League.

“That’s why Pablo Zabaleta, in these kind of things, is so, so important.”

Victory would just about ensure a top-four finish for Guardiola’s side, and may even make it mathematically certain if Arsenal fail to beat Sunderland on the same night.

Guardiola is in the process of shaping his squad for next season, and while Zabaleta’s future has been decided, those of City’s six other out-of-contract players remain in the balance.

The most high-profile of those players is midfielder Yaya Toure, who looked certain to leave after being dropped from the first-team squad earlier this season because of a fall-out with the manager.

Since resolving the dispute and being recalled in December, Toure has proved himself a valuable player for City, and even though he turned 34 on Saturday, it is clear that he still has plenty to offer.

City go into Tuesday’s match on the back of two successive wins, beating Crystal Palace 5-0 but following that up with a far less convincing 2-1 victory over Leicester on Saturday.

Guardiola must decide whether to recall his 31-goal leading scorer Sergio Aguero to the starting line-up, having caused something of a surprise by naming him only as a substitute on Saturday.

Aguero, who made the squad after recovering from a groin injury, did come on for the last 12 minutes, but Gabriel Jesus, signed in January from Palmeiras, is clearly the first-choice striker.

West Brom will head for Eastlands with some discouraging memories, having shipped 23 goals in their last seven visits.

But despite losing 1-0 to Chelsea on Friday in the game that saw the London club crowned champions, West Brom boss Tony Pulis believes optimism is high at The Hawthorns.

His side have two games to clinch the eighth place they have held for much of the season.

“It was a slow start to the season but we picked up and it’s been a fantastic journey and a fantastic ride,” said Pulis.

“What we’ve got to do now is try to get something from these two away games.

“The club had got a buzz about it that it hasn’t had for a long time, at least not since I’ve been at the club.

“There is much more optimism that the club hasn’t had since I’ve been here and people want to feel that and be part of it.

“And I’m hoping we can get maybe one or two players in that can give us a lift for next season because that’s important.”

Jenson Button hints F1 return still possible

May 15, 2017 · Leave a Comment 


Jenson Button, preparing for his one-off comeback with McLaren-Honda at the Monaco Grand Prix, on Monday hinted he could make a U-turn on retirement and make a full-time return to Formula One in 2018.


The 37-year-old 2009 world champion told reporters that he could not rule out a comeback with the team.

“I have a contract with the team to race next year so definitely I would not rule anything out,” he said, when questioned about the future.

A move to retain Button’s services again may be an option for the troubled McLaren outfit if they fail to convince two-time champion Spaniard Fernando Alonso.

Alonso on Monday flew into Indianapolis to start his preparations for the Indianapolis 500 on May 28, when Button replaces him on a one-off basis at the Monaco Grand Prix.

It had seemed Button’s F1 career was over when he held his retirement party at last year’s end of season Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Button said he was contacted by two other teams, offering him a race seat for 2017. “I had so many options to race this year it is hilarious,” he said.

“I am thinking of Monaco as my only race this year. But, obviously, if I am asked again at another point in the year I am here to fill that seat.”

Button has been spending time in the United States this year and on Saturday won his age group competition in an ‘Ironman in California’ contest.

“It is pretty mad really that I am getting back in a Formula One car,” he said. “But there are no negative thoughts going through my head.

“I don’t have anything to gain, but I don’t have anything to lose either. I am there to help the team out and have some fun — and it will probably be one of the most fun Grand Prix for me because there is no pressure. It is a one-off so I am really excited about the challenge.”

Could have done better – Weeraratne

May 15, 2017 · Leave a Comment 


By Yohan Bhasura reporting from Malaysia

Skipper Roshan Weeraratne believes that Sri Lanka could have put up a better performance in their Asian Rugby Championship Division I match against Philippines that was played on Sunday, which they won 24-13.

“We’re really happy but we could have done better. This was not our best performance but I think everybody played well. The weather was not in our favour, but we’re satisfied that we won this match,” said Weeraratne.

Weeraratne also expressed his disappointment for conceding two late tries to their opponents.

“I think Philippines scored those two tries because of our mistakes. We cannot blame any individual for that. The wet conditions did not help our cause and that was a major concern for us,” added Weeraratne.

The Sri Lanka captain also believed that Thilina Wijesinghe’s place kicking was key for Sri Lanka’s success against the Philippines.

“His performances helped us to stay ahead throughout the game. I think the try scored by Richard Dharmapala was also a vital factor for our success. But I think everybody played well in this match.”

Weeraratne also praised the efforts of senior player Fazil Marija.

“I think he’s still playing well like in the past. He’s still the same player he was 10 years back. I hope he will continue the same form in the remaining matches ,” the captain said.

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