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.
NSW Waratahs forwards Tolu Latu and Will Skelton and one of their potential Super Rugby opponents next week, have all been hit with alleged foul play citings after being involved in lifting tackles.
Hooker Latu and lock Skelton were both cited for their involvement in a tackle on Crusaders lock Sam Whitelock in the 17th minute of Saturday’s match at ANZ Stadium.
Latu was given a yellow card at the time and Skelton went unpunished, but upon review the citing commissioner deemed that the alleged action of both men met the red card threshold for foul play.
Any suspension would rule them out of at least the first game of the Waratahs South African trip against the Lions in Johannesburg next weekend.
A few hours after the game in Sydney later, Lions hooker Robbie Coetzee was hit with the same alleged foul play citing as Latu and Skelton following an incident in the match against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
Like the two Waratahs, Coetzee was cited for contravening law 10.4 (I) which refers to lifting a player from the ground and dropping or driving that player into the ground whilst that player’s feet are still off the ground such that the players head and/or upper body come into contact with the ground is dangerous play.
Coetzee was given a yellow card at the time.
If Latu was banned it would mean the Tahs might have to resort to starting with their third-string hooker, Hugh Roach and pluck someone out of club rugby as his backup.
Last week Waratahs coach Michael Cheika said their leading hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau would not be taken to South Africa to give him another couple of weeks to recover from his second bout of concussion this season.
News of Latu and Skelton’s citings could have been an unpleasant surprise for Cheika, who after the game felt neither man was likely to get into trouble.
“The match officials were all there and they took a long look.” Cheika said.
“He (Whitelock) didn’t land on his head.
“It was an awkward combination of the two, they were trying to hold him up for the maul, one was up top.
“Sometimes it just happens, so I wouldn’t expect that anything was going to happen.
If Skelton is suspended, Cheika will have another quality lock to call upon, with former Wallaby Dean Mumm linking up with the Waratahs in South Africa.
Mumm is heading there from Europe after completing his English club commitments.
Skelton and Latu will each appear before a SANZAR judicial hearing conducted through a video conference on Monday at 3.30pm AEST.
Ryan Hoffman says NSW debutants Josh Jackson and David Klemmer are ready to fill the shoes of `Bash Brothers’ Paul Gallen and Greg Bird and does not expect them to miss a beat at ANZ Stadium on Wednesday night.
The Bulldogs pair have been called into the Blues line up for Gallen (hip) and Bird (suspension) for the first game of NSW’s Origin shield defence.
As the Blues wrapped up their training camp at Coffs Harbour on Sunday, Hoffman nominated the two debutants as being among the most impressive.
“Josh Jackson has got a very, very simple role but you know he’s going to do that role well,” Hoffman said.
“That’s what we require. All the new guys have impressed me. I guess that’s the benefit of having kids who are debuting who are really confident in their abilities. They just come into this Origin scenario and they know they’ve got what it takes.
“It’s all about putting it all on the field and `Klem’ is the same.
“He’s running hard in training, just as I’m sure he’s going to be running hard on Wednesday night and that’s what we want to see.”
After completing a training run at their Coffs Harbours base on Sunday, the team will fly to Sydney in the afternoon as they ramp up preparations for Origin I.
While Queensland has had to deal with several headaches, including question marks over the fitness of Billy Slater, Greg Inglis and Justin Hodges and the withdrawal of Daly Cherry-Evans, it has been smooth sailing for the Blues at Camp Coffs.
The team has had an almost ideal preparation for Game I so far with few hiccups and the laid-back coastal city providing a settled backdrop and few interruptions.
“We’re confident in what we’ve done and we’ve put the right steps in place,” Hoffman said.
“We have two more sessions including today’s session to put that final polish on and we’ll keep on building.
“We’re not trying to be perfect today, we just want to make sure we’ll be perfect on Wednesday night.”
Newcastle say they are more worried about ensuring they have not presided over a false dawn rather than the returning Wayne Bennett and his undermanned “Baby Broncos”.
The Knights are favoured to wrap up back-to-back wins against Brisbane on Monday night after snapping a five-game losing streak against the Wests Tigers last week.
The Knights will be missing just one player because of State of Origin in Beau Scott, after Dane Gagai was released from Queensland camp when Greg Inglis was cleared of tonsillitis.
The Broncos will be without Corey Parker, Justin Hodges, Sam Thaiday, Matt Gillett, Josh McGuire and Darius Boyd however they are not suffering a dearth of experience.
Dale Copley, Daniel Vidot and David Stagg slot back in while their spine remains pretty much intact, with their halves and hooker remaining the same.
The Broncos have been ordinary without their Origin stars in the past three seasons, winning just two of five games, however they will field just one debutant in Joe Boyce against the Knights.
“I don’t think you can view them any differently,” Knights winger James McManus said.
“It’s been the same story for the Broncos for years and there’s always young and enthusiastic guys getting their opportunity at this time of year … And they’ve still got some great players in their team, we certainly can’t take them any differently.”
Monday night’s match will mark Bennett’s first visit to Hunter Stadium since quitting the Knights and returning to coach Brisbane this season.
McManus said the Knights’ most pressing priority was getting their NRL finals push back on track after looking strong early in the season when they won their opening four.
“There’s always room to improve and regardless of the win we certainly have a lot of things to work on,” McManus said.
“The determination we showed in our (defence) and we just dug in for each other on the weekend and that’s what we need is that desperation.”
STATS THAT MATTER
* The Knights have won just 13 of 43 matches against the Broncos.
* Last year the Broncos beat the Knights by a cumulative margin of 80-12 across three games.
* Brisbane is the only team Newcastle has not defeated at Hunter Stadium since 2011.
* Newcastle has busted the most tackles of any team this season, and has made the fourth most linebreaks.
He played alongside him for two seasons and has coached him for the previous four, making Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley the perfect judge of Scott Pendlebury’s AFL career to date.
The Magpies skipper brought up 200 games in style against the Suns, crafting out 35 quality touches and booting three goals in Collingwood’s 20.12 (132) to 9.9 (63) victory at the Gold Coast’s Metricon Stadium on Saturday night.
Jamie Elliott (five goals) and Jesse White (four) also starred for the Pies alongside defender Marley Williams (33 disposals), while key midfielder Steele Sidebottom returned from a thumb injury with 32 touches.
Pendlebury appeared to be sluggish during the opening minutes of the 69-point win, but any doubts of the 27-year-old’s effectiveness were alleviated when the 2010 Premiership winner kicked his first goal in the 3rd minute.
Collingwood’s number 10 set up Travis Varcoe before kicking his second inside the final 20 seconds of an inspired first quarter where he started in the forward line.
Having had the rare pleasure of coaching Pendlebury and also having him as a teammate during the midfielder’s fledging years as an AFL footballer, Buckley says it’s the little things his captain does which make him a complete professional.
“It looks like everything’s been plain sailing for ‘Pendles’, he’s been robust, he backs up every week, but I think what that hides is he’s been challenged, he’s probably been vulnerable, he’s had to reinvent himself,” Buckley said.
“He’s had to face self-doubts; he’s had to push the little man off his shoulder that’s saying ‘maybe not today, maybe I don’t have to do these extras, maybe I can give this one per-center a miss, the ice-bath or the diet or the sleep’, but he’s pushed through those.
“We all have them, but he’s pushed through them. It looks like it comes naturally to him, it looks like it’s easy, but it doesn’t happen that way.”
Collingwood’s midfield depth allowed Buckley to start the five-time All-Australian up front against the Suns, with the move paying off immediately as Pendlebury took four marks, including three inside the forward-50, while raking up 11 disposals during the opening quarter.
Buckley says the versatility of his skipper means he can continue nurture his younger midfield brigade.
“Pendles is damaging wherever he goes. If he’s being sat on we can use him in different places to our advantage,” he said.
“We know if we want to continue to develop a side that can challenge the best sides, we need to develop (19-year-old) Jordan de Goey, his ability to go through the midfield, Jamie Elliott (22), his ability to go through the midfield, Alex Fasolo (22) at times, Jarryd Blair (25), Tim Broomhead (21) we’re looking to develop our youth in the right doses.”
The Magpies currently sit fifth on the ladder with a 5-3 win-loss record and will be full of confidence heading into their round nine clash against North Melbourne next weekend.
Perez is widely expected to make Ancelotti the scapegoat after Real ended the season without winning a major trophy but the intervention of dressing-room heavyweight Ronaldo may make him think twice.
Ronaldo netted a hat-trick in Real’s final game of the campaign on Saturday, a 7-3 drubbing of city rivals Getafe at the Bernabeu, taking his tally at the top of the La Liga scoring chart to 48 goals.
It was his best single-season haul in Spain’s top flight since he joined from Manchester United in 2009 and two short of the record of 50 set in 2011-12 by Barcelona forward Lionel Messi, who scored 43 this term.
After the match, Portugal captain Ronaldo posted a message on his Twitter feed with a photograph of himself and Ancelotti.
“Great coach and amazing person,” Ronaldo wrote. “Hope we work together next season.”
Ancelotti, who led Real to a record-extending 10th European title and a King’s Cup triumph in his debut year in Spain in 2013-14, has made it clear he wants to carry on but said on Saturday if Real do let him go he would take a year out.
His contract runs until the end of next season and he said he expected to meet with club officials early next week to discuss his future.
Media reports in Italy have suggested the 55-year-old could return to former club AC Milan, with whom he won the European Cup as both a player and coach.
Napoli’s Spanish coach Rafa Benitez is the frontrunner to replace Ancelotti at Real, where he had a stint as a youth trainer, according to local media.
Real’s Colombia midfielder James Rodriguez also backed Ancelotti after Saturday’s game.
“He arrived two years ago and he knows the team, he knows how we are and how we go about things,” he told Spanish television. “But it’s not my decision and it’s not my place to talk about it.”
(Reporting by Iain Rogers, editing by Amlan Chakraborty)