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Westbrook edges closer to triple record as Thunder roll Nets

March 15, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Russell Westbrook edged closer to Oscar Robertson’s long-standing triple-double record after leading the Oklahoma City Thunder to a comfortable 122-104 win over the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday.

Westbrook

Westbrook brought up his remarkable 33rd triple-double of the season with 25 points, 19 assists and 12 rebounds as the Thunder improved to 38-29.

The Oklahoma City talisman is now just eight shy of Robertson’s record season tally of 41 triple-doubles.

The Barclays Center crowd enjoyed a love-hate relationship with Westbrook on the night, subjecting him both to boos and chants of “MVP” in recognition of his stellar season.

The crowd united in a standing ovation however when he grabbed a defensive rebound with 4:40 left in the fourth quarter to complete his latest triple.

Westbrook later admitted he had been taken aback by the reception of the crowd after sealing his triple.

“They were loud. I thought something happened,” Westbrook said. “I was wondering why they were screaming so loud. I thought they were giving something out in the crowd or something.”

Thunder coach Billy Donovan paid tribute to Westbrook’s “incredible poise.”

“I thought he generated shots for everybody,” Donovan said. “He made the game easy for everybody. He rebounded the ball, he scored when he needed to. He’s always surveying the game. … He put his fingerprints all over the game in so many ways different ways in my opinion.”

It was a third consecutive victory for Oklahoma City, who also saw guard Victor Oladipo finish with 21 points and center Enes Kanter add 17 off the bench.

The win was also Oklahoma City’s first on the road since a defeat of New Orleans in late January – a fact that pleased Westbrook.

“As a team, if you want to win a championship, you have to win on the road, regardless of who you play, where you play, the situation, the weather, whatever it is you have to win on the road,” Westbrook said.

“I made it very clear this morning that it was a key for us.”

Brook Lopez top-scored for the Nets with 25 points, with guard Jeremy Lin adding 24 points and Randy Foy 13.

Mum’s the word for Owen Farrell as England face Ireland

March 15, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Owen Farrell will find himself on the opposite side to his father for the first time when Six Nations champions England bid for a record-breaking win against Ireland in Dublin on Saturday.

Farrell

Victory at Lansdowne Road would give England a 19th successive international win, breaking the record for a ‘tier one’ or leading rugby union nation they currently share with world champions New Zealand.

It would also mean that England, who have already retained the title with a week to spare, became the first team in the Six Nations era to complete back-to-back Grand Slams.

But now England goal-kicking centre Owen finds himself on the opposite side to his father and Ireland defence coach Andy Farrell, who held a similar post with England until he left following the team’s first-round exit at the 2015 World Cup.

Farrell junior, however, said the only member of the family for whom this was a problem was his mother, Colleen.

According to her son, the ideal outcome for Mrs Farrell was a 3-0 England win, with Owen kicking the lone penalty.

“We don’t really joke about it. It’s not like he’s playing the game, there’s only one of us playing in it and he’s obviously got a coaching role,” Owen said.

“I think the only person it will affect is my mum, not us. She just wants everyone to do well. She wants 3-0 England I think!”

Farrell, once renowned for goal-kicking and defensive skills, has become a genuine playmaker as he demonstrated with the quality of his passing in the 61-21 rout of Scotland at Twickenham last weekend, a match where England scored seven tries.

Asked if his father would have come up with a plan to counter his attacking threat, Owen said: “I guess we’ll see…We don’t speak to each other every day. We speak to each other what I would say is the normal amount, as any family would.

“We chat a bit of rugby, but we also have general chat as families would.”

England coach Eddie Jones had no fear important tactical information may have inadvertently leaked out to the Ireland camp during a family conversation.

“They’ve probably been talking about rugby probably since Owen was big enough to sit at the table,” said Jones.

“I think they’re both mature enough to get on with it this week. Neither needs any more motivation to do well. They’re Farrells — I think that sums it up,” the Australian added.

Leicester’s Champions League breakthrough keeps fairytale alive

March 15, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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In progressing to the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time, Leicester City preserved a golden thread stretching back all the way to last season’s miraculous Premier League title success.

Leicester City

The thread has worn close to breaking in recent weeks, with Leicester’s perilous slide towards the relegation zone costing popular manager Claudio Ranieri his job.

But after overcoming a 2-1 deficit to beat Sevilla in the Champions League last 16, the sense of fearlessness that became their hallmark a year ago has returned.

“They looked so fluid and had such amazing passion and determination,” the club’s former manager David Pleat told BBC Radio 5 Live after Leicester’s 2-0 win over Sevilla on Tuesday.

“I don’t think they would want either Real Madrid or Barcelona in the quarter-final. But who would have thought they would win the title last year? So whoever they face, who knows?”

As well as Barcelona and Real Madrid, Juventus, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund also lie in wait in Friday’s last-eight draw.

Atletico Madrid and Manchester City are in pole position to join them ahead of the final two last 16 second legs later on Wednesday.

Asked who he hoped to avoid in the quarter-finals, Juve’s emblematic captain Gianluigi Buffon replied: “Leicester.”

The prospect of a genuine European superpower arriving at the King Power Stadium will further help to restore some of the magic dust that had been rubbed off amid Leicester’s domestic toils.

Eliminated from both cup competitions and fighting to keep themselves above the Premier League bottom three, the Champions League represents their only hope of prolonging last season’s fairytale.

Wednesday’s Daily Mail back-page headline said Leicester could “CARRY ON DREAMING”, while The Guardian said victory over Sevilla had seen Leicester “write a new fairytale”.

The Times said Leicester were “back in fantasy land”.

The great irony of Leicester’s resurgence is that it has taken the dismissal of Ranieri, architect of the title win, for the players to start playing like they had last season.

They had already found the Champions League to be well-suited to their preferred contain-and-counter strategy, however, having recorded four wins and kept four clean sheets during the group phase.

Ranieri tried to introduce greater sophistication to Leicester’s tactics, notably deploying Riyad Mahrez in a central role in the 2-1 first-leg loss to Sevilla, which was to prove his last game.

But the instant impact enjoyed by his successor Craig Shakespeare suggests Leicester’s players are both happier and more effective with the simple 4-4-2 formula used to such devastating effect last season.

“I think we have to play to our strengths,” said Shakespeare, Ranieri’s former assistant.

“You have to be concerned about the opposition, and know their strengths, but as a football club, we have to know our strengths.

“You saw that in abundance in the performance (against Sevilla), in terms of desire, but we can play a bit as well.

“(Beating Sevilla) epitomises what we’re about.”

Tactical factors only go so far in explaining the Leicester turnaround under Shakespeare, which started with successive 3-1 wins over Liverpool and Hull City.

The sight of Jamie Vardy and Shinji Okazaki once again breathlessly harrying opposition centre-backs suggested the change has been as much psychological as anything else.

“There had to be something wrong there,” observed former England right-back Danny Mills, a Champions League semi-finalist with Leeds United in 2001.

“All those fans who thought it was a disgrace that Ranieri was sacked, they have got to eat some humble pie.”

With Leicester still only three points above the Premier League relegation zone, their players cannot afford to be distracted by dreams of European glory for too long.

But with the Champions League music guaranteed to boom out around the King Power on at least one further occasion this season, the Leicester fairytale may yet have more magic in store.

Wales unchanged for Six Nations finale against France

March 15, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Wales will field an unchanged side against France in their final match of the 2017 Six Nations, it was announced Wednesday.

Wales

Interim head coach Rob Howley has retained the same starting line-up that beat Ireland 22-9 at home last week for Saturday’s match in Paris.

If Wales win — and England beat Ireland in Dublin on Saturday to secure a Grand Slam — it will mean that the Welsh are assured of a top-four position in the world rankings ahead of the 2019 World Cup pool draw in May.

Saturday will see Wales bidding for their sixth straight win over France in a match where hooker Ken Owens wins his 50th cap, with experienced Bath forwards Taulupe Faletau and Luke Charteris remaining on the bench.

Although Wales have already been beaten by England and Scotland this season, a win at the Stade de France could see them finish second behind already-crowned champions England if other results fall in their favour.

“I was delighted for the players about Friday’s result and performance, and they deserve the opportunity to build on that in our final RBS 6 Nations encounter,” said Howley after announcing his team.

The former Wales scrum-half, in charge while Wales head coach Warren Gartland is seconded to the British and Irish Lions for the combined side’s tour of New Zealand in June and July, and his team had faced criticism after the successive defeats by England and Scotland.

But Wales responded impressively by scoring three tries against Ireland, including two from powerhouse wing George North, while not conceding any at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium last Friday.

“The experience we showed and the intensity we brought to the match was hugely important, and that will be just as important as we face a good France team at home,” said Howley. “We put pressure on ourselves and turned that pressure into a result.”

He added: “For us, there are areas of the game we want to work on from Ireland, and we have an opportunity to do that on Saturday and finish the campaign with another quality performance.

“The players who took to the field at the Principality Stadium deserve the opportunity to start, and we were pleased with the impact from the bench, so will be looking for the same this weekend.”

Wales have not lost at the Stade de France since a 28-9 defeat in 2011.

They will face a France side who’ve also won two out of their four Six Nations matches so far this season, following victories over Scotland and Italy.

Harden on fire as Rockets down Cavaliers

March 14, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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James Harden exploded for 38 points as the Houston Rockets jolted LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers with a 117-112 victory on Sunday.

HArden

Harden led the scoring and completed his 16th triple-double of the season with 10 rebounds and 11 assists as the Rockets improved to 46-21 to strengthen their grip on third spot in the Western Conference standings.

Harden was one of six Houston players to make double figures, with Ryan Anderson the next top scorer with 16 points while Patrick Beverley and Eric Gordon both weighed in with 13 apiece.

Cleveland, who fell to 43-22, were reliant of James and Kyrie Irving to provide the bulk of their points.

James led the Cavs scoring with 30 points while Irving weighed with 28. Only one other Cleveland player — Richard Jefferson with 16 — made double figures at Houston’s Toyota Center.

With the exception of James and Irving, a weary Cavs line-up looked to be suffering after-effects from Saturday’s road game in Orlando, where no fewer than seven players had posted double figures.

Harden’s virtuoso display ultimately tipped a back-and-forth battle Houston’s way.

The 27-year-old point guard’s 11-point third quarter was crucial as Houston wiped out a nine-point halftime deficit to haul the Rockets back into the contest.

A high-quality game saw both teams exchange a series of long-range field goals in the opening period.

Cleveland looked to have taken a grip on the game with a red-hot shooting spree which saw them drain six consecutive three-pointers.

Jefferson was responsible for three of those efforts as Cleveland went 57-45 ahead early in the third period.

But Harden led Houston back into the game and the Rockets’ superior depth of scoring ultimately told in the fourth quarter.

All Black Milner-Skudder out for six weeks

March 14, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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All Black utility back Nehe Milner-Skudder was told on Tuesday he will be out for at least six weeks with a foot injury, leaving his dream of facing the British and Irish Lions hanging by a thread.

Nehe Milner-Skudder

Milner-Skudder fell awkwardly in a tackle during Wellington Hurricanes’ Super Rugby loss to Waikato Chiefs on Friday and scans showed a break in his right foot.

“It’s disappointing but these things happen in rugby… it was just a freak accident,” he said in a statement.

The Hurricanes said it was a small fracture that required rest, not surgery, but Milner-Skudder would be out for at least six weeks.

The match was only Milner-Skudder’s second outing after a season-long layoff in 2016 due to shoulder surgery. He scored a hat-trick of tries in his comeback against the Melbourne Rebels.

A six-week Super Rugby absence, possibly longer, puts the 26-year-old on the sidelines until late April.

With the Lions arriving in June, that leaves him only half a dozen Super Rugby matches to persuade All Blacks selectors he is fully fit.

Milner-Skudder’s last Test was the 2015 Rugby World Cup final against Australia, when he scored a try to take his tally for the tournament to six.

His chances of facing the Lions may be boosted by the fact that fellow All Black backs Israel Dagg, Waisake Naholo, Seta Tamanivalu and Lima Sopoaga are all nursing injuries after the bruising early Super Rugby rounds.

Djokovic, Federer, Nadal advance at ATP Indian Wells

March 14, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Novak Djokovic launched his bid for a sixth ATP Indian Wells Masters crown with a two-set triumph over Kyle Edmund as the stars shone on Sunday in the California desert.

Djokovic

The 46th-ranked Edmund served for the second set at 5-3, but world number two Djokovic broke him en route to a 6-4, 7-6 (7/5) triumph.

His reward is a tough third-round clash with former US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro, a 7-6 (7/5), 6-3 winner over fellow Argentine Federico del Bonis.

“I think I played very well in the first set,” Djokovic said. “Second set was obviously up and down. But credit to Kyle for playing some really aggressive tennis.

“He made a lot of winners in the beginning and midway through the second. There was not much wrong I did. I did miss some forehands. But other than that, it was a very solid match. Good, quality tennis, a good test.”

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal also reached the third round, Federer flying through with a 6-2, 6-1 victory over France’s Stephane Robert in just 51 minutes.

Nadal opened his account with a steady 6-3, 6-2 victory over Argentina’s Guido Pella.

The three stars are packed together in a remarkable bottom quarter of the draw.

But Djokovic said he can’t afford to think about a possible quarter-final clash with either of his longtime rivals with del Potro coming up.

While Djokovic has won 12 of their 16 career meetings, the Argentine handed him a crushing two-tiebreak defeat in the first round of the Rio Olympics — a defeat Djokovic avenged in Acapulco this month.

“Big guy, big serve, big forehand,” Djokovic said of del Potro.

“Definitely not the draw that you like early in the tournament and that you wish for, but it is what it is,” added Djokovic, who is trying to get back to the winner’s circle after a shock second-round exit at the Australian Open and a quarter-final loss to Nick Kyrgios in Acapulco.

Ninth-seeded Federer, resurgent after a 2016 season marred by injury, downed Nadal in an epic Australian Open final to secure his 18th Grand Slam title.

He hit a speed bump in Dubai this month, failing to convert three match points in a third-round loss to Evgeny Donskoy — but he was firing on all cylinders against the 81st-ranked Robert.

“Very happy,” said Federer, who missed Indian Wells last year with a knee injury that required surgery. “Knee is a thing of the past, which is great. I don’t even have to think or talk about it.”

Nadal was pleased with a “solid” opening effort against Pella, made trickier by the oven-like mid-day temperatures and the fact that Pella, like Nadal, is a left-hander.

“I didn’t try to do amazing things. I tried to play solid,” the fifth-seeded Spaniard said. “For moments I played well. For moments I played a little bit less well. Important thing, I won, and I won in straight sets.”

Nadal knows he’ll have to turn up the intensity if he wants to end a hard court title drought stretching back to 2014.

The bottom half of the draw also features fourth-seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan, who eased past Britain’s Daniel Evans 6-3, 6-4 on Sunday.

But sixth-seeded Marin Cilic, who beat Nishikori in the 2014 US Open final, was an early casualty, beaten 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 by 19-year-old American Taylor Fritz.

The jam-packed half of the draw is a contrast to the wide-open top half, which lost a lot of its lustre on Saturday when world number one Andy Murray was stunned by 129th-ranked Canadian qualifier Vasek Pospisil.

“That’s sport, no?” Nadal said. “Yesterday probably Andy didn’t play his best match and Vasek served very well. So then you go to a tiebreak and anything can happen.”

Conte, Mourinho feud boils over after FA Cup clash

March 14, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Antonio Conte slammed Manchester United’s cynical attempts to intimidate Chelsea in his side’s bitter FA Cup quarter-final win, but Jose Mourinho hit back at his rival by insisting he remains the Blues’ best ever manager.

Chelsea

Chelsea boss Conte was furious with United’s aggressive approach after Ander Herrera was sent off for two fouls on Eden Hazard in Monday’s 1-0 victory at Stamford Bridge.

Marcos Rojo escaped a red card for a spiteful stamp on Hazard late in the second half at Stamford Bridge, but the United defender is likely to face a ban if the Football Association retrospectively look at the offence.

Conte was so wound up by the constant fouling he became embroiled in a touchline row with United boss Mourinho that ended with the rivals being separated by the fourth official.

Asked what he made of United’s tactics, Conte said: “My players want to play football, but for 25 minutes it was impossible.

“I think only that Eden got a lot of kicks. I don’t think I’m crazy.

“He started the match receiving kicks and he finished it receiving kicks.

“This is the truth and I don’t think one person can say this didn’t happen. It’s not football for me.

“It could be United’s tactic. Sometimes when you play against players with great talent you try to intimidate them.

“The referee must try to protect these type of players because they can go out with a bad injury.”

It was a chastening return to west London for former Chelsea boss Mourinho, who endured his old club’s fans calling him “Judas” and chanting “you’re not special anymore”.

Mourinho responded to the jibes by holding up three fingers to the crowd to remind them how many Premier League titles he won in his two spells with Chelsea.

And, determined to have the last word, Mourinho, sacked by the Blues last season, took the opportunity to remind Conte and Chelsea’s supporters that they have a long way to go to match his achievements at the Bridge.

“They can call me what they want. I’m a professional,” he said.

“I feel responsibilities on Chelsea’s bad Premier League last season, but when I left we were in the Champions League, winning the Champions League group.

“Now they don’t play in Europe. It’s not my fault.

“Until the moment they have a manager that wins four Premier Leagues, I am number one.

“If a manager wins four I become number two. Until then, Judas is number one.”

Although Conte and Mourinho didn’t shake hands at full-time, the Italian insisted he had done nothing wrong in their touchline clash.

“It was hard work for the fourth official but I controlled my emotion very well today,” Conte said.

“It’s normal for the manager to push his players. What happens outside the pitch is just a circus.”

Conte saluted Hazard for refusing to be intimidated by United’s bullying as N’Golo Kante’s superb second-half winner gave the Premier League leaders a Wembley semi-final showdown with London rivals Tottenham next month.

“For sure, he showed strong character. After the first 25 minutes, every player would have a fear of being kicked. It’s very dangerous to receive a kick from the back,” he said.

Inevitably, Mourinho refused to accept blame for his team’s approach and turned the focus on referee Michael Oliver’s decision to send off Herrera for what was one of the less vicious tackles on Hazard.

“Herrera’s second yellow card, compare that with (Marcus) Rashford going to attack the ball in a counter-attacking situation. He was fouled and the referee doesn’t give a booking,” Mourinho said.

“We all saw the game. We can all agree there was one match until Herrera saw the red card and another after that.

“I thought we were going to win because everything was under control, then with 10 men it was very difficult for us.”

Live updates: U20 schools rugby tournament – Trinity College vs Zahira College

March 13, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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17:54 – Trinity score again and consolidate their lead. 34-26

17:34 – Trinity regain the lead with a try. 29-26

17:26 – Zahira take the lead against Trinity. 26-24.

16:59 – A third try for Trinity, which is converted. Trinity 19, Zahira 12

16:55 – Zahira score to equalise again. 12-12

16:36 – Zahira equalise with a try of their own. Trinity College 07, Zahira College 07

16:27 – Trinity College take the lead with a converted try. Trinity College 07, Zahira 00

Live updates: Under 20 Schools rugby tournament – St. Anthony’s College Vs Isipathana College; Wesley College Vs S. Thomas’ College

March 12, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Full time: At full time. Wesley College 23. S. Thomas’ College 19.  Isipathana 43, St. Anthony’s 35

17:41 – Wesley College scores an unconverted try to reduce the lead. 18-19.

17:37 – Isipathana 43, St. Anthony’s 30

17:23 – Isipathana 43, St. Anthony’s 20

17:06 – Half time between Isipathana and St. Anthony’s. Isipathana 24, St Anthony’s 13

16:53 – Score remains the same after 15 minutes of play between S. Thomas College and Wesley

16:51 – Isipathana 24
St. Anthony’s 13

16:46 – Wesley puts over a penalty to reduce the margin. 3-5.

16:39 – Isipathana extend their lead again with another unconverted try. Isipathana 17, St. Anthony’s College 05

16:36 – S. Thomas’ College take the lead with an unconverted try. 5-0.

16:33 – Match underway at Longden Place.

16: 21 – St. Anthony’s hit back with an unconverted try. Isipathana 12, St. Anthony’s 05

16:29 – Isipathana extend the lead with a converted try. Isipathana 12, St. Anthony’s 00

16:23 – Isipathana College on the board early on with an uncoverted try

Live updates: Battle of the Golds Limited Over encounter

March 12, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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16:14 – St. Sebastian’s College 154/4 in 33.1 overs when spectators invaded the field. M. Peiris 62 n.o, S. Peiris 3/21. Result: St. Sebastian’s College won by 62 runs (D/L method).

15:58 – St. Sebastian’s College 134/3 in 25 overs

M. Peiris 46 n.o. S. Peiris 2/9.

15:05 – St. Sebastian’s College (target 160) 119/2 in 19 overs

A. Fernando 56, M. Peiris 41 n.o.

14:38 – St. Sebastian’s College 99/0 in 13 overs

M. Peiris 39 n.o, A. Fernando 45 n.o.

14:18 – St. Sebastian’s College 53/0 in 8 overs

A. Fernando 20 n.o.

13:52 – St. Sebastian’s College (target 160) 24/0 in 3 overs.

12:53 – Prince of Wales College 159 all out in 43.4 overs

A. Fernando 21, S. Fernando 18, T. Perera 4/55, N. Bandara 3/19.

12:30 – Prince of Wales College 120/7 in 29 overs

N. Bandara 2/6, T. Perera 2/19.

11:58 – Prince of Wales College 118/7 in 29 overs

A. Fernando 21, T. Perera 2/19.

11:24 – Prince of Wales College 95/5 in 20 overs

V. Chaturanga 26

11:08 – Prince of Wales College 72/2 in 12 overs

V. Chaturanga 26

10:39 – Prince of Wales College 59/2 in 9 overs.

10:17 – Prince of Wales 33/0 in 5 overs.

Prince of Wales won the toss and elected to bat vs St. Sebastian’s College

Manchester City cruise into FA Cup semi-finals

March 11, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Manchester City cruised into the FA Cup semi-finals with a 2-0 victory at Middlesbrough on Saturday as Pep Guardiola showed he is taking the competition seriously.

FA Cup

Goals from David Silva and Sergio Aguero were scant reward for City as they easily out-classed Middlesbrough, who must have feared such an outcome when they witnessed the team named by Guardiola.

Ominously for Middlesbrough, languishing in the relegation zone after failing to win any of their last 10 Premier League games, all City’s world-class players were involved, despite the fact they face Monaco in a decisive Champions League last 16 second leg on Wednesday.

“We’re so happy to be through because to reach the semi-finals of this competition is so complicated,” Guardiola said.

“We produced a good performance today. We were there from the first minute. The first goal was important but it was down to how we approached the game.

“Now we recover good to play another big game on Wednesday.”

City’s extra class soon surfaced as three of Guardiola’s big guns combined to open the scoring in the third minute.

Yaya Toure’s angled pass was headed back across goal by Pablo Zabaleta and any one of three players could have put the ball beyond the goalkeeper Brad Guzan, with Silva applying the finishing touch.

It was a goal destined to further erode the fragile confidence of a Middlesbrough team that struggled to find an immediate response apart from two dreadful tackles, one that earned a caution for Antonio Barragan and another that should have brought the same punishment for Grant Leadbitter.

Leadbitter, whose inevitable booking eventually came at the end of the half, was employed more impressively when Middlesbrough finally troubled City midway through the half.

The midfielder’s corner was met by Rudy Gestede, whose header was parried by goalkeeper Claudio Bravo before Zabaleta completed the clearance on the line.

Another header from Gestede drifted over the bar a minute later in his final contribution before an injury forced him off to be replaced by the former City forward Alvaro Negredo.

Negredo spent the rest of the opening half watching from a distance as his current team came under constant pressure, notably from Leroy Sane, who failed to take advantage of a cross from Raheem Sterling before almost creating a goal at the end of an electrifying run.

Middlesbrough did threaten again when Cristhian Stuani directed a 37th minute header too close to Bravo, but City remained firmly in control of the tie and Toure almost extended their lead with a header shortly before the interval.

Remarkably, the opening stages of the second-half almost brought a replica of City’s goal.

This time, Kevin de Bruyne redirected identical Toure’s pass across the goal where Silva was waiting again, but this time he wastefully drove his shot over the bar.

City appeared in the mood to finish off Middlesbrough as Guzan was forced to make four fine saves in the space of 10 minutes, twice from Sane and also from Silva and Aguero, who finally found a way past the keeper in the 67th minute when he turned in Sane’s excellent cross for the second goal.

The remaining quarter of the match was all about Guzan as he saved superbly from Silva and Aguero, while Sterling had a goal disallowed for offside.

When Middlesbrough did create a rare chance for Fabio, it was cleared off the line by John Stones.

Battle of the Golds ends in draw

March 11, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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The 67th Battle of the Golds Inter-Schools Big Match between traditional rivals St. Sebastian’s College and Prince of Wales College also ended in a tame draw at the Moratuwa Stadium on Saturday (11).

Even then, the Cambrians had the satisfaction of snatching a close first innings lead over their opponents following some exceptional bowling by Kaumal Nanayakkara and Tharuka Fernando.

The pair shared eight wickets between them as the Sebastianites were bowled out for 221 despite a fighting half century from Mishen Silva (77).

Earlier, the Cambrians were rescued by a superb knock from Vishwa Chaturanga (88) who played the sheet anchor role after they had had won the toss and elected to bat first.

Rain-affected centenary match ends in draw

March 11, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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The Centenary Battle of the Blues Inter-Schools Big Match between traditional rivals Trinity College and St. Anthony’s College was also severely affected by bad weather at the Pallekele Stadium in Kandy.

Even then, Trinity were able to take major honours in this rain-curtailed encounter as they piled up a formidable 270 for five in their first innings and then had the opposition struggling at 99 for six in reply.

Trinity’s first innings total was built around two superb innings from Hasitha Boyagoda (90) and Shanogeeth Shanmuganathan (83) who took the Antonian bowling apart with some aggressive batting.

In fact, the Trinitians could have easily scored over 300 runs but with bad weather curtailing play they decided to close the first innings at 270 for five.

The Antonians in reply were in deep trouble when the match was called off eventually with V. Nethumal and T. Dilshan threatening to run through the innings.

Bad weather stalls S. Thomas’ in Battle of the Blues

March 11, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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By Chris Dhambarage

S. Thomas’ College missed out on a great chance of pulling off an outright victory as bad weather intervened to their 138th Battle of the Blues Inter-Schools Big Match against the traditional rivals Royal College which ended in a draw at the SSC Grounds in Maitland Place on Saturday (11).

Even then, the Thomians will be really disappointed with the final result as they were within a chance of forcing a result and were well set to avenge their last year’s Big Match defeat at the same venue.

In fact, Royal were struggling at 154 for eight in their second innings when bad light halted play early with an overall lead of just 52 runs and two wickets in hand.

Royal’s hero in the second innings was their middle order batsman Thevindu Senaratne who held the batting together after they had collapsed to 61 for five at one stage.

Senaratne together with Ahan Sachintha frustrated the Thomian bowlers with some stubborn batting as the pair rescued Royal from disaster while adding a valuable 68 runs for the sixth wicket.

Trevin Eriyagama did the early damage while claiming three quick wickets but the Thomians were not able to add the finishing touches as the Royal tailenders held on determinedly to force a draw.

Earlier, S. Thomas’ took their first innings total past the 350-run mark following some splendid batting from their top order.

Skipper Romesh Nallapperuma (92) and opening batsman Ravindu Kodituwakku (98) both missed out on scoring Big Match hundreds while wicket-keeper batsman Sithara Hapuhinna(59) smashed a half century to extend their lead.

Live updates: Under 20 Schools rugby tournament – St. Peter’s College Vs DS Senanayake College

March 11, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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North double ends Ireland’s Six Nations hopes

March 11, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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George North silenced his critics with a brace of tries that saw Wales run out 22-9 winners over Ireland in Cardiff on Friday to end the visitors’ hopes of a tilt at the Six Nations title.

North

The result means England will be crowned Six Nations champions should they beat Scotland on Saturday.

North scored a try in each half and Jamie Roberts a late five-pointer, Leigh Halfpenny kicking two conversions and a penalty. Ireland, who had Jonny Sexton sin-binned, had just three penalties to show for their efforts through the Leinster fly-half (2) and Paddy Jackson.

“We knew we were one performance away from winning a game, they have been down to fine margins every week,” man-of-the-match and scrum-half Rhys Webb told BBC.

“We showed glimpses of what we can do and there is more to come from us. You don’t become a bad team overnight.”

Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones added: “We owed that to the Welsh people and to ourselves. We haven’t done ourselves justice in the last two games.”

Irish skipper Rory Best admitted that his team, who bounced back from an opening defeat by Scotland with wins over Italy and France, were “very disappointed”.

“We came here hoping and expecting to win and keep everything alive. Credit to Wales but we are frustrated with the errors we made.”

It was a brutal match, the ferocity of some of the early bone-jarring hits reverberating around a packed, expectant Principality Stadium in full song: Ireland made 81 tackles in the first half alone.

Recent encounters between the Celtic cousins have been closely-fought affairs, and this attritional ding-dong was no different, although the winning margin was Wales’ best since 1983.

Ireland dominated a frantic opening period, monopolising both possession and territory. The pressure eventually paid off after Webb was penalised for a high tackle, Sexton making no mistake with the long-range kick at the posts.

Wales, who opened their Six Nations campaign with victory over Italy before losing to England the Scots, came battering back, but the Irish defence held firm.

Breaks from South African-born flanker CJ Stander and winger Simon Zebo kept Wales pinned back, but the visitors suffered a blow when a groggy Sexton, who caught a Jonathan Davies knee to his head, was replaced by Paddy Jackson in the 19th minute.

No sooner had the replacement come on then Wales sprang from a line-out.

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt had predicted before the match that players can bounce back from a poor display with a much-improved one, and so it proved to be for North, heavily criticised in Wales’ capitulation to Scotland.

Webb broke into midfield and found Halfpenny with a long pass, the Toulon full-back fed North who stepped inside Keith Earls and rode Zebo’s tackle for a fine try.

Halfpenny missed the conversion and Jackson restored Ireland’s lead with a penalty.

Wales ended an entertaining half in the ascendancy, however, a Webb chip to the corner gathered by Liam Williams who fed inside only for Davies to be held up.

English referee Wayne Barnes had no choice but to yellow card Sexton for killing the ball on the line, Halfpenny making no mistake with the resulting penalty.

Wales made their numerical supremacy pay immediately into the second period, Halfpenny doing well to follow up a Webb chip and bundle the covering, obviously injured Connor Murray into touch.

Alun Wyn Jones rose to pluck the ball in the resulting line-out, the maul trundled forwards and Webb found North unmarked on his wing for a simple try, his 30th on the international stage. Halfpenny knocking over the extras.

The returned Sexton orchestrated an Irish fightback, Wales withstanding a remarkable 26-phase of attack before Dan Biggar was harshly penalised for a high tackle, Sexton pulling back three points.

Biggar saw a drop-goal go off the post as a raft of replacements came on in what was turning into a war of attrition.

And then Robbie Henshaw arguably cost Ireland a pushover try when he joined a driving maul illegally.

Sexton conjured up a couple of pinpoint cross-kicks that threatened the Welsh line late on, but the home side had the last word when Roberts barrelled over from close quarters, Halfpenny booting the conversion to leave coach Rob Howley and his coaching staff breathing a massive sigh of relief after two weeks of intense scrutiny over their selection policy.

Djokovic seeks to turn up heat in California desert

March 11, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Five-time champion Novak Djokovic will be out to reassert his dominance on the hard courts of Indian Wells this week, seeking to shake off the slump that has dogged him into 2017.

Djokovic

Djokovic’s five titles in the California desert include the last three.

But the Serbian star arrives at a tournament he has owned shaken by a second-round exit at the Australian Open, which was followed by a shocking quarter-final loss to young Australian Nick Kyrgios in Acapulco.

The setbacks come on the back of a troublesome second half of 2016, when he lost his world number one ranking to Andy Murray and relinquished his Wimbledon and US Open titles.

Acknowledging that his longed-for first French Open crown last year left him emotionally depleted, Djokovic nonetheless says his game remains good enough to get him back to the summit.

“Right now I feel like it was better than it was, especially in the second part of last season,” Djokovic said Thursday as unseeded men swung into action in the first ATP Masters tournament of the year.

“Particularly after the US Open I had those couple months where I wasn’t myself on the court. Now I’m at the better place and I believe that I’m headed in the right direction.”

Djokovic, who lifted the trophy in Doha this year before his Australian Open defeat, insisted the latest setbacks haven’t discouraged him.

“Generally if I see myself kind of (in) larger perspective today compared to end of last season, I’m a different player,” he said. “I feel more comfortable, I feel more fresh. I look forward to competing and I feel more confident on the court.”

But he’s got a monumental task in Indian Wells, where he anchors a bottom quarter that also includes four-time champion Roger Federer, and three-time winner Rafael Nadal.

The talent-laden section also includes former US Open winner Juan Martin del Potro, Kyrgios and young German Alexander Zverev.

“I haven’t had too many draws like that,” Djokovic said. “It’s quite amazing to see that many quality players are in one quarter.

“It is what it is,” he added. “Obviously Nadal and Federer are starting to build their rankings. They haven’t played, especially Roger hasn’t played for six months of the last season.

“Winning the Australian Open he got in the top 10 but he’s still not top eight, obviously that’s potentially putting him in position to play last 16 with a top eight player.

“We’ll see what happens. I guess in the first four or five days of the tournament we’ll have some very, very strong matches.”

Murray heads the draw that gives all 32 seeded players a first-round bye.

Among Thursday’s matches, Italy’s Paolo Lorenzi downed Robin Haase of the Netherlands to book a first-round meeting with third-seeded Swiss Stan Wawrinka.

Canadian qualifier Vasek Pospisil defeated Taiwan’s Lu Yen-Hsun 6-7 (6/8), 6-4, 6-3 to earn a clash with Murray, while France’s Jeremy Chardy beat Moldovan qualifier Radu Albot 7-6 (7/2), 6-2 to book a meeting with eighth-seeded Austrian Dominic Thiem.

The 23-year-old Thiem, who won his eighth ATP title in Rio last month, is among the young players keen to muscle in on the game’s “Big Four” of Murray, Djokovic, Nadal and Federer.

Even after his 2016 Australian Open victory more than a year ago, Djokovic indicated he could feel them coming, telling reporters that wolves running up the hill are hungrier than the wolf at the top.

“I guess I’m one of the wolves going up now,” Djokovic said Thursday. “And I’m hungry.”

Alonso hints at McLaren exit after nightmare test

March 11, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Two-time Formula One world champion Fernando Alonso ruled out retiring until he is handed a competitive car as his beleaguered McLaren-Honda suffered more reliability problems to end pre-season testing on Friday.

Alonso

The Spaniard broke down twice as electrical faults again restricted his running to just 43 laps and the 11th fastest time of 13 drivers.

Alonso’s contract with McLaren expires at the end of the season. “I want victories and podiums and if it all goes wrong, I will attack next year,” Alonso, 35, told reporters.

“It will give me more motivation to continue. I will not stop driving without a good result, which I think is what I deserve.”

Rain spoils Trinity chances at Pallekele

March 10, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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By Shamzeer Jaleel

Trinity College were in a strong position in their Centenary Big Match (Hill Country Battle of the Blues encounter) against the traditional rivals St. Anthony’s College which commenced at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium in Kandy on Friday.

Hasith Boyagoda plays a square drive (pic by Tharik Mohammed)
Hasith Boyagoda plays a square drive (pic by Tharik Mohammed)

Day one came to an early end losing 34 overs due to rain.

Winning the toss, Trinity took first lease of the wicket at the Pallekele green top.

The Lions batted cautiously in the early overs as the ball was swinging and was unplayable at times. They lost opener Hasintha Jayasuriya early in the innings.

But a second-wicket partnership of over 100 runs took Trinity to 124 for one at lunch. Both Sri Lanka Youth players, Sanogeeth Shanmuganathan and Hasitha Boyagoda played brilliantly scoring at will. This was the backbone of the Trinity innings.

Soon after lunch both Boyagoda and Sanogeeth continued their good form with the bat but both missed out on well deserved centuries.

Skipper Sanogeeth and his deputy Hasitha put on 147 runs for the second wicket. Boyagoda’s innings consisted of seven boundaries and three sixes. His skipper’s innings had nine boundaries and two huge sixes. Both were victims of some fine spin bowling by Antonian

Mohamed Alavi who concentrated on a good line and length not giving either of the batsmen much space to play freely. He was the chief destroyer taking three Trinity wickets.

Rain played a major part as the game was stopped twice for bad light and rain. Trinity who were cruising well lost two wickets in quick succession towards the end of the day’s play. Play will begin at 9.25 a.m today (11) in an attempt to make up some of the lost overs.

Former Sri Lankan off-spinner Muttiah Muralithanran graced the occasion.

Trinity College 1st innings
H. Jayasuriya ct Sandaruwan b Wickramarachchi 07
S. Shanmuganathan ct Satheesh b Alavi 83
H. Boyagoda ct and b Alavi 90
C. Bandara b Alavi 00
P. Wanasekera not out 06
T. Percivel not out 00
Extras (b8, nb4, w6) 18
Total (for 4 wickets, 61 overs) 204
Fall: 1-12, 2-159, 3-179, 4-204
Bowling: S. Wickramarachchi 6-1-17-1, V. Jayasinghe 13-2-41-0, M. Alavi 18-4-57-3, S. Dharmaratne 22-1-62-0, T. Abeykoon 1-0-08-0, J. Himsara 1-0-11-0

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