The Melbourne Rebels will look to pounce on a weary Sharks outfit to try to rescue their South African tour with a win in Durban next week.
The Rebels blew a solid chance to gain their first ever Super Rugby victory on South African soil with a frustrating 31-15 loss to the Stormers at Newlands.
Despite having 67 per cent of possession, they were at times their own worst enemy.
Hooker Pat Leafa had a costly brain explosion after the half-time siren that gifted the Stormers a try and swung momentum back the Cape Town side’s way.
Instead of booting the ball into touch while they were on their own tryline, he passed the ball straight into the arms of Stormers winger Dillyn Leyds, who strolled across for the first of his two tries and pushed the margin out to 18-7.
After that blow they scrambled to score two second half tries through centre Dom Shipperley and winger Tom English but couldn’t close the margin on the Stormers, who moved to top of the South African conference and third overall.
Rebels skipper Scott Higginbotham lamented their high error count and said a video review of the match would be painful to watch.
“It’s going to be a tough one to review because our errors would have been through the roof and that’s disappointing,” Higginbotham said.
“We played some great football but credit to the Stormers, they really kept it in play for 80 minutes.”
Rebels coach Tony McGahan said there was still a lot to like about the performance ahead of their clash with the Sharks next Sunday (AEST).
“We take a lot of positives out of that performance despite the result, however a lack of composure at our end provided them with some easy points,” McGahan said.
“It’s a very tough place to come and play and with finals on the horizon, it was a really important game for them and they’re a quality side.”
Like Melbourne, the Sharks are out of the running for the finals – fourth in their conference and one place behind the Rebels in 11th overall.
The Rebels will be hoping the Sharks will find the going tough after returning from a disappointing Australia and New Zealand trip that only yielded one win.
They are coming off a scrappy 21-14 win over the lowly Reds in Brisbane which was their sole victory of their four game tour, losing to the Waratahs, Hurricanes and Highlanders.
The Rebels should have their three injured players, centre Tamati Ellison, winger Sefanaia Naivalu and prop Toby Smith, available.
Queensland head into Wednesday’s State of Origin opener with far superior firepower and with questions dangling about NSW’s ability to put points on the board.
NSW go into Game I at ANZ Stadium with the Origin shield in the trophy cabinet however statistics show the Maroons boast a far better attacking arsenal, especially in the absence of Jarryd Hayne.
According to Fox Sports Stats, the Blues backline has just eight Origin try assists to their credit from their cumulative 47 games.
The Queensland backline, which features many who have been touted as future Immortals including Greg Inglis, Billy Slater and Johnathan Thurston, boasts a lethal strike rate.
While the Maroons’ outside men have played nearly three times more Origin games (135 to 47), they have set up 46 tries at interstate level – six times more than their Blues rivals.
Thurston alone has set up more than three times more tries than the entire Blues backline during his Origin career having put his teammates over on 25 occasions.
His Blues opposite number Mitchell Pearce has been one of the competition’s best halves at club level this year, he goes into the game unproven at representative level with four try assists from 12 games.
The Blues won last year’s series, however they scored just four tries and across all three games and were defeated by a cumulative points total of 44-26.
Half of NSW’s tries last year were set up or scored by former fullback Hayne, who is in America pursuing an NFL career.
While the Queenslanders have Inglis and Darius Boyd, who share the record for the highest number of Origin tries with 15, Hayne’s absence leaves a hole in the Blues line up.
Hayne’s departure to the US will heap pressure on his NSW No.1 successor Josh Dugan, who has been touted as a match-winner by those on both sides of the Origin fence.
Inglis described the St George Illawarra fullback as the Blues’ biggest danger while former NSW coach Phil Gould said Origin I was his time to stand up.
“(Dugan) has been a little bit quiet which is good for Duges, he know he’s got a big job at hand and he’s got that confidence as well,” Dugan’s NSW and Dragons teammate Trent Merrin said.
“He’s tapering for Wednesday night.”
GIVING THE ASSIST
Statistics for State of Origin try assists for the NSW and Queensland backlines for Game I
It was billed as a must-win for the Houston Rockets on their home court, but in the first six minutes of the game Golden State Warriors’ centre Andrew Bogut did something critics thought was beyond him.
The 213cm tall Australian centre was unstoppable on the offensive end.
In that six minute opening period on Saturday Bogut, just days ago named one of the NBA’s best defensive players, scored 10 of the Warriors’ first 17 points.
The Rockets never recovered from that opening burst and the Warriors went on to a 115-80 blowout victory.
The win gave the Warriors a 3-0 lead in the Western Conference Finals and one more victory will book them a place in the NBA Championship series for the first time in 40 years.
“Bogut was terrific,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.
In a 23-second stretch in the first quarter Bogut hit a sweet hook shot, drew a charging foul on Dwight Howard and then dunked a lob pass from teammate Draymond Green.
With his job done and the Warriors’ shooters Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson stepping in and virtually ending the game early in the second quarter, Bogut sat out most of the second half.
The Australian finished with 12 points, on five from eight shooting, and 12 rebounds before fouling out in the fourth quarter.
Curry pulled off another spectacular performance, scoring 40 points, including sinking seven of his nine three-point attempts, while Thompson had 17 points.
A seething Howard told reporters he was surprised his teammates did not put up a fight in a game that was important to keeping their playoff hopes alive.
“We have to man up and not quit on each other,” Howard, with 14 points and 14 rebounds, said.
Howard didn’t point any fingers, but the Rockets’ runner-up to Curry for this year’s NBA MVP award, James Harden, made just three of his 16 field goal attempts.
The Warriors led 30-18 at the end of the first quarter, at half-time steam-rolled to 62-37 and in the final quarter the 18,282 fans who packed into Houston’s Toyota Center expecting a home win were in their cars driving home or deathly quiet in their seats.
“We got hammered on the boards and we got beaten in the paint,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said.
“We had no answer to that.”
Kerr, who won three NBA Championships with the Chicago Bulls and two with the San Antonio Spurs as a player, was one of the NBA’s best three-point shooters.
He gave Curry the ultimate praise.
“I don’t think we’ve ever seen anyone shoot the ball like Steph,” Kerr said.
The Warriors can close out the series in Houston on Monday.
Their likely opponent will be the Cleveland Cavaliers who hold a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals against an injury-depleted Atlanta Hawks.
If the Cavaliers do eliminate the Hawks and the Warriors finish off Houston it will pit Cleveland’s Australian point guard Matthew Dellavedova against Boomer teammate Bogut for the NBA title.
The Cavaliers play the Hawks in game three on Sunday (Monday AEST) in Cleveland.
Welfare cheats give everyone legitimately receiving assistance a bad name, says Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.
Mr Shorten was responding to reports that the Abbott government intends to appoint a senior federal police officer to crack down on welfare fraud.
Human Services Minister Marise Payne says the task force will focus on recovering money from those on income support payments like Newstart, Youth Allowance and pensions who have underestimated or lied about their income.
The government estimates the task force will recoup about $1 billion.
“This measure will allow the department to uncover overpayments, recoup debts and investigate deliberate welfare fraud,” Ms Payne said.
Mr Shorten said Labor will carefully consider measures to improve compliance because the party has no time for anyone defrauding the system.
“It is illegal to do this,” he told reporters in Ballarat on Sunday.
“But … if we are talking about making sure that the AFP has a role here, government needs to explain why they are cutting the number of AFP officers by 115.”
Greens senator Rachel Siewert said the government is deliberately trying to smear all income support recipients with this latest “tough cop on the beat” approach to welfare.
She said appointing a senior police officer to target welfare fraud implies the problems are related to deliberate fraud rather than administrative errors resulting from a complex and unwieldy system.
“Government should be pursuing with the same vigour those at the big end of town who are deliberately avoiding paying tax,” Senator Siewert said in a statement.