Monthly Archives:April 2019

Queensland Firebirds held firm to beat Northern Mystics 53-47 in Auckland to continue their unbeaten record against the New Zealand outfit in the trans-Tasman league.

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The Queensland side made it eight wins-from-eight over the Mystics, never looking likely to lose after powering 11-3 ahead inside the first six minutes.

The home side closed to within five goals during the second quarter and again during the final quarter but the Firebirds were able to keep them at arm’s length to lodge a fifth successive win this season and remain second in the Australian conference.

They haven’t been beaten since an opening-round loss against competition leaders West Coast Fever, with their record including a 58-50 fifth-round home win against the Mystics.

Despite two straight defeats, the Mystics remain top of the New Zealand conference, three points ahead of Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic.

They paid for a slow start but when Silver Ferns goal shoot Cathrine Latu replaced Paula Griffin in the second quarter, the Mystics went on to win the period 11-8 to trail 25-20 at halftime.

However, the Firebirds midcourt established control after the break and their shooters were able to take 72 combined shots to the Mystics’ 51.

Jamaican Romelda Aiken (42 goals from 53 shots) and Gretel Tippett (11/19) could afford to be a little wayward in the winners’ shooting circle.

Latu slotted 15/15 while goal attack Maria Tutaia’s excellent 28/30 featured a large number of trademark long-range bombs.

The Mystics conceded too many turnovers and lacked discipline while they were also well beaten in the rebound stakes, with the towering Aiken pulling in 10.

The result continues Australian teams’ dominance in trans-Tasman games this season.

New Zealand sides have failed to win any of the past 18 games since the Magic pipped Adelaide Thunderbirds 45-44 in the championship opener in February.

The Firebirds have won their past eight matches in New Zealand.

Just more than two years after being sacked by Canberra and seeing a contract offer from Brisbane withdrawn, Josh Dugan has been named an Australia rugby league Test representative.

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In a true rugby league redemption tale, the St George Illawarra fullback will start on the wing for the Kangaroos against New Zealand in Brisbane on Friday.

The story was so different in March 2013 when Dugan was shown the door by the Raiders for the latest in a long line of alcohol-fuelled incidents.

After spending time working as a painter and decorator he agreed terms with the Broncos only for the contract to be ripped up after he became involved in a social media spat with a fan.

A move to the Dragons came with several clauses in his contract regarding his behaviour and the 24-year-old has more than proved himself in the Red-V, helping the side to the top of the ladder with a series of strong displays.

Test coach Tim Sheens said he had no concerns picking Dugan on the wing, a position he has never played at NRL level, and his selection was fully merited.

“He won’t be the first fullback to play for Australia,” Sheens said.

“He’s been picked on form, when you look at St George’s form and his form it’s warranted. He’s probably as good a fullback as anyone at the moment.

“Laurie (Daley) experimented with him at centre last year and he did well. Good footballers can play in more than one position. He beats more people on kick return than anyone else in the game.”

Australian Rugby League Commission chairman John Grant said Dugan’s turnaround is a great advert for the game.

“Without being specific about him, but the game sets some real boundaries that everyone understands and gives them a chance to transgress.

“If they don’t then they are welcome to play rugby league and we welcome them back in the family.

“He’s an example … it’s great to have Josh in the side. To see people waste their talent is demoralising so it’s great to see people with great talent capitalising on it.”

Sheens named four debutants in total with South Sydney winger Alex Johnston and Melbourne centre Will Chambers in the starting side while prop Trent Merrin is on the interchange bench.

Fullback Billy Slater has been selected subject to a medical, having been out of NRL action for three weeks as he recovers from a shoulder injury.

Should Slater fail to prove his fitness on Tuesday, Greg Inglis will move to fullback and Michael Jennings, who was named as 19th man in an extended squad, will come in to the centres.

“I spoke to him (Slater) today and there will be a medical followed by a physical test out on the field,” Sheens said.

“He’s pretty confident he will play, we will do a thorough test on him as we don’t want to risk him.

Johnston’s inclusion caps a huge rise to the top for the 20-year-old who won a premiership with the Rabbitohs in his rookie season last year.

“He’s easily coached, talented with a thirst for knowledge, what more do you want?,” Sheens said.

“He’s versatile, he’s played fullback. Michael Maguire as a coach has an opinion of a fullback for him down the line. He is a talented kid.”

The Hurricanes remain top of the Super Rugby ladder after holding off an improved Queensland Reds to win 35-19 on Sunday.

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A bumper crowd of 26,374 at Suncorp Stadium saw the Reds battle manfully and at one stage hold a nine-point lead – only to once again prove to be their own worst enemy with more mistakes and poor execution.

It was far from the blowout result some had predicted but while pleased with the effort, Reds coach Richard Graham admitted ill discipline and handling errors made a difficult task almost impossible.

“You don’t tolerate it but you understand there’s probably going to be a moment in the game where (the Hurricanes) just go nuts and score a couple of quick tries,” Graham said.

“What’s important is you don’t contribute to that, and that was probably the thing – on a couple of occasions tonight we contributed to it.”

It looked like the same old Reds had rolled out as they coughed up four penalties inside the first 10 minutes, allowing the Hurricanes all the early momentum.

But for all their faults, the Reds proved damaging when they eventually got their hands on the ball.

Samu Kerevi enhanced his Wallabies case with two tries six minutes apart – the first of them the more impressive as he breezed past All Blacks pair Julian Savea and Conrad Smith.

“He’d probably be 15 games into his Super Rugby career,” Graham said of the 21-year-old Kerevi.

“Each game he plays he learns and he’s got an appetite for it as well.

“I’ve got no doubt if he continues to work hard and improve in all the areas he needs to, he can definitely play at the top level.”

Yet just as easily as they surged in front, Queensland fell apart.

Tackles stopped sticking, the Hurricanes sniffed an opportunity and they took it with a penalty and two converted tries from TJ Perenara and Callum Gibbins before the break.

The Reds were by no means finished and in the 46th minute they struck back through Liam Gill, who spun out of a tackle after a scrum and scored under the posts.

But from there on it was a case of one step forwards, two steps back.

James O’Connor converted Gill’s try to make it 23-19, but his night ended four minutes later when he had to go off after a head knock.

Then Gill joined him on the sidelines, earning a yellow card in the 57th minute and opening the door for the Hurricanes to take control with late tries to Savea and Perenara.

Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd said losing in Brisbane was “not an option” on the back of their loss to the NSW Waratahs last weekend.

“The intensity that the Reds had to defend (with) in the end was going to create some space for us or take a toll,” he said.

“We spent all last week looking at their games – they were in a heck of a lot of their games but never quite able to finish it off.

“I think it’s tough for any organisation when you have that many men down.”

Howell needed a birdie on the par-five 18th for victory but sent his lengthy first putt from off the green seven feet past the hole and his par attempt missed tamely on the low side to hand Wu the China Open title in front of a delighted gallery.

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Wu, 29, twice a winner on the Japan Golf Tour, joined Liang Wenchong and Zhang Lian-wei as Chinese winners of European Tour events after the duo claimed previous editions of the Singapore Masters.

“Its a wonderful day today. Everyone knows how tough it was,” Wu said after finishing the tournament on nine-under par.

“I played very good today. Its very special for a Chinese winner of the China Open. Very exciting.”

The duo had started the day in a four-way tie for the lead with China’s Li Hao-tong and Alexander Levy but Wu’s round of one-under-par 71 on the tricky Shanghai Pudong course was enough for victory in the 20 million yuan (£2.1 million) event.

Howell, playing in the final group, had led for much of the final round but a bogey-five on 14 dropped him in a tie with Wu before his disappointing final hole, where a wayward second from the fairway made his approach to the green much tougher.

Defending champion Levy (71) began his round with a bogey and a double-bogey five at the eighth left him with too much to claw back and he settled for a share of third on seven under.

Talented teenager Li finished in a share of sixth after struggling on the final day at his home event, one of four tournaments the country will host on the European Tour this year.

Argentine Emiliano Grillo looked set to post the clubhouse target after racking six birdies in his round to take him to nine-under but a costly double-bogey five at the penultimate hole left him in a share of third after a 69.

(Writing by Patrick Johnston in Singapore; Editing by John O’Brien)

At least 2,000 people protesting the unexplained death of a black man while in police custody marched through downtown Baltimore on Saturday, pausing at one point to confront officers in front of Camden Yards, home of the Orioles baseball team.

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In the biggest protest since 25-year-old Freddie Gray died on Sunday, two clusters of marchers chanting “shut it down” started out at different times before merging during the afternoon into a single wave headed toward City Hall.

       

Gray is the latest in a series of black men around the country who died under questionable circumstances during police encounters. Their deaths have triggered an outcry in the United States over what many see as law enforcement’s unjustified use of force against African-Americans.

      

Last year, there were weeks of protests across the country following the shooting death of unarmed black teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the death of Eric Garner, in New York City who was placed in a chokehold during an attempted arrest.

       

Saturday’s protests came a day after Baltimore’s police commissioner conceded that police had failed to provide Gray with timely medical attention for a spinal injury he had suffered sometime after he was apprehended and put inside a transport van.

Police have not explained how he sustained the injury. He died a week after his arrest on April 12.

       

During the march, some of the demonstrators confronted about 50 police officers in front of the baseball stadium, where the Baltimore Orioles were due to play the Boston Red Sox at 7:05 p.m. There were no plans to cancel or postpone the game.

      

The demonstrators pushed up against a wall of barricades and waved signs at officers, who stood silently in two lines. Some protesters kicked and dented police cars parked nearby but there was no forceful response by the officers.

       

“The revolution is here! I’m going to kill you! All of you – guilty!” one demonstrator yelled as he leaned over a barricade.    

The marchers then headed for City Hall, blocking traffic on some streets as they passed. Dozens of officers were standing guard at City Hall.       

A spokesman for Baltimore Police, which used police helicopters to monitor the marchers, declined to comment on tactics and deployment plans for the marches.

       

“What I can tell you is that we will ensure the constitutional rights of every citizen in Baltimore,” police spokesman Jeremy Silbert said in an email to Reuters.

       

Six Baltimore police officers have been suspended in the Gray case, and an internal police investigation is under way.

      

“We are all united in our demand to indict the six police officers and convict,” said Sharon Black, spokeswoman for

People’s Power Assembly, one of the rally organizers.

       

On Friday, Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said the officers repeatedly failed to give Gray medical assistance and disregarded department regulations by failing to buckle the man into seat restraints in the van.

       

Police have said Gray fled when officers approached him in a high-crime area, but he was caught a short time later and placed in the van. He was carrying a switchblade knife, police said.

      

When the van arrived at the police station, an ambulance was called and Gray was taken to a hospital. He died a week later.

      

Batts said on Friday that investigators were still trying to determine what happened inside the police van. Police said their investigation would be completed by May 1, a day before protesters plan another rally in Baltimore.

       

The department will turn over its findings to state prosecutors and an independent review will follow.