Monthly Archives: January 2013

Super League Returns

Tomorrow will mark the returning of Super League to the sporting calendar as the 2013 season kicks off with defending champions Leeds Rhinos taking on Hull FC at Headingley.

The Rhinos will be hoping to make it another succesful year after they reached the Challenge Cup Final as well as taking the Grand Finale Ring in 2012, and are looking for a good start in this under the lights game on Sky Sports.

Hull look more of a force this season and with the likes of Kirk Yeamen playing at the peak of his game, could be an outside bet for a top four spot.

Elsewhere on the opening evening, Salford City Reds host Wigan Warriors, with both sides hoping for better seasons than last year.

The Reds, with one eye on their off the field problems will want a good start to the season to get fans and investors backing the club, while the Warriors, without some of their established team members from previous seasons, will want to get back in amongst the silverware.

Saturdays Sky Sports game is a cracker between St Helens and the Huddersfield Giants.

The Saints are now managed by former Giants’ boss Nathan Brown and are looking to progress further under his tuition. For the Giants, who boast one of the largest packs in the history of the game, with Stuart Fielden, Eorl Crabtree and Craig Kopczak to name only three, are looking to pout last years catastrophic fall from the top behind them.

Under the stewardship of Paul Anderson, this season will be full of power, strength and gritty determination and this battle is between many great players and coaches in the game.

Sunday’s games welcome Warrington Wolves back to the action, against a Castleford side who now have an alcohol free Rangi Chase in their squad. The Wolves have recruited well in the off-season and under head coach Tony Smith could well get top the grand final once more.

Also on Sunday, the West Yorkshire derby sees Bradford Bulls, under new ownership, face Wakefield Wildcats, London Broncos, face Widnes Vikings and Hull Kr, with new signing Greg Eden looking sharp, play the Dragons from Catalan.

 

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Classic Moments – Southampton 6 – 3 Manchester United

Manchester United defeated Southampton 2-1 tonight to extend their lead at the top of the Premiership.

But back in the 1996-1997 season, Southampton produced one of the best displays ever against the Red Devils at the Dell.

Having beaten them famously the season before when Sir Alex Ferguson claimed the ‘grey’ shirts of United had blended in with the crowd, the Saints were out for revenge.

United had lost 5-0 to Newcastle United the week before and their fortunes were little better here as they were never in the game.

A hat-trick from Egil Ostenstad, a brace from Eyal Berkovic and a wonder strike from Matt Le Tissier gave the saints a memorable victory.

United, like the season before would go on to claim the title, but this game goes down as a classic for all football fans.

You can relive the action here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n6J-4RIRsms

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Cue Action – Flat 128 Draw – By Will Vallely

Snooker is possibly facing one of the biggest revolutions in the game’s history.

A new draw format has being proposed, it would be the flat 128 man draw.

This means all 128 players on the tour would enter events at round one, even the most elite players in the game.

Currently there is a feel that players in the top 16 have too much security as they are currently guaranteed a place at the major ranking events. However those players will surely argue that they have worked hard to earn that position.

World Snooker Chairman Barry Hearn states he wants to give ‘equal opportunities’ to all players and claims that snooker is finally being looked at as a ‘proper game and not a boys club’.

One of the main issues raised has been that the top players don’t want to be playing in small venues and would rather play in front of big crowds at big events.

Judd trump says, “I don’t particularly want to be playing in front of five people again, the reason I practised so hard was to get out of that”.
John Virgo believes playing in smaller venues could be a disadvantage for the best players:
“The better players need to be out there in front of a big crowd, the TV cameras, with the adrenaline going. That is a test for any player to be able to do it on the big stage,” he said.

One of the ways of getting around this could be to have a similar set up to that of tennis. For example you could have smaller tables for the lesser known players and maybe some ‘show tables’ where there would be a crowd for the elite players to play in front of.

However for this you would need much bigger venues than the ones currently used, maybe even two in the same city.

One of the star players to come out in support of the format is Shaun Murphy. He believes this is what the game has needed for a long time.

The format change would coincide with the already planned and agreed change to the ranking format. The ranking system is currently based on points however from next season it is due to convert to a prize money based structure.

If the change does go ahead some people will believe that if the players aren’t beating the lower ranked players and getting to the latter stages of events then they are not good enough to be there.

The World championship and Masters would be the only tournaments excluded from the change.

The final decision is likely to be put to a vote, although it would be expected to be a vote in favour of change as the lower ranked players would surely want it, so they could potentially move up in the game quicker.

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Hole In One – Wood you believe it, Chris bags maiden victory – By Sam Duffy

Englishman Chris Wood broke his duck last week and won his first European Tour event at the Qatar Masters in Doha. After finishing on eighteen under par, Wood professionally saw off a strong field, finishing above Sergio Garcia and George Coetzee.

Since bursting onto the scene at the 2008 British Open, after finishing fifth, much has been expected of Wood. However, after a slow start to his professional career he has finally fulfilled his potential by becoming the fifth different winner on the European Tour this season.

Wood’s stunning round-of-the-week 64 in the third round was the difference in the end between himself and the chasing pack. Straight driving and a steady hand on the putter right from the first tee set the tone for the rest of the weekend.

Another bright spot to come out of Doha was the improving form of runner-up Sergio Garcia who finished one off the lead. Aside from the Ryder Cup, Garcia has only recorded one top-ten finish since July last year and this good start to the year could be a platform for him to finally bag that elusive major title.

A player who has started 2013 extremely well is Thongchai Jaidee who has recorded his third top-ten finish in three tournaments and is certainly a name to look out for during the rest of the season.

The European Tour heads back to Dubai on Thursday for the Dubai Desert Classic, with previous winners including Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods and last year’s champion Rafa Cabrera-Bello all looking to win back their crown in Dubai.

 

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It’snowheaven – I-Pod calls the Tunes – By Jess Softley

Those who watched the Winter X Games this week will understand where we are coming from when we say this has been one of the most captivating events Aspen has ever seen!

With so many big names pulling off insanely challenging runs and many younger faces pushing the limits in every sport, 2013 witnessed the best riding that we’ve seen on the slopes.

It was clear from the beginning that the Big Air final was going to be extremely competitive, with Triple corks being pulled off in the first runs. With a jump of 75ft and 100ft to the sweet spot (run off), this kicker claimed many riders, causing some serious wipeouts including Halldor Helgason’s attempt at a triple backflip in the qualifiers which resulted in an over-rotation and an unconscious Helgason.

However, unfortunately he did not make it into the six man final with Sebastien Toutant, Stale Sandbech, Ulrik Badertscher, Seppe Smits, Torstein Horgmo and Mark McMorris.

With such an intense final, only the best tricks would see the high points in the 40 range and with all six riders going for Triple corks, the heat was on to land each run perfectly. Torstein Horgmo was the first participant to successfully land a Triple cork in his first run scoring him a well-deserved 44 points, closely followed by Stale Sanbech’s own insane Triple cork, scoring him 49 points, putting him in first place with a total of 91 points altogether.

However, in the last chance to up their points, both Horgmo and McMorris knew they had to push themselves if they were going to achieve a podium finish, with Horgmo landing a perfect switch backside triple cork, scoring him 50 points, taking the lead from Stale. With his last and only chance to score big, McMorris knocked out his own Triple cork resulting in a further 48 points added to his total, placing 2nd in the leader board, pushing Sandbech down into 3rd.

The Men’s Slopestyle also showed the same kind of competitiveness, with McMorris taking 1st place with a whopping 98.00 points, a full eight points above 2nd place Maxence Parrot with 90.00 and Seppe Smits in 3rd with 85.00.

This year’s Superpipe saw a surprisingly close fought event, with the “great” Shaun White fighting it out with Iorui Podladtchikov, Ayumu Hirano, Markus Malin and Scotty Lago.

During the qualifiers, Shaun White looked complacent with his initial run, then disappointed the crowd by merely riding through the pipe on his second, knowing he had already qualified. Podladtchikov however, was consistently impressive throughout the qualifiers and stood in pole to take the title.

With White placing an embarrassing 7th place in the Slopestyle, all was set for a dramatic final between White and the affectionately named iPod. But on the day of the final the Swiss rider had to pull out due to illness. There were no shortage of contenders though as the final lived up to its billing.

Despite fantastic runs from the 14 year old Hirano who came 2nd, Malin 3rd and Scotty Lago who had an unfortunate slip during his drop-in on his final run coming in 4th, qualification it was once again White who took 1st place.

How the podium would have looked if illness hadn’t struck the Swiss rider down, we can only guess and the anticipated battle between Shaun White and iPod will have to wait.

 

 

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Double Fault – Aus Open Review – By Jack Maleham

After an enthralling two weeks the Australian Open has come to an end.

Novak Djokovic and Victoria Azarenka both successfully defended their titles and won the first Grand Slam of the 2013 tennis calender.

After a epic fourth round tie against Stanislas Wawrinka, Djokovic overcame tricky opponents in Tomas Berdych and David Ferrer in the quarter-finals and semi-finals to set up a mouthwatering final against Andy Murray.

Murray had beaten 17 time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer in the semi-finals and took the first set of the final. However after missing break points in the second set Djokovic hit back square the match up at one set all.

After that Djokovic was clinical. He played some magnificent tennis and took the third and fourth sets 6-3 and 6-2 respectively.

This is Djokovic’s fourth Australian Open and also his third in concession. This makes the Serb the first man in 46 years to win three successive titles in Melbourne.

As for Andy Murray despite being beaten in the final, he can take solace from the fact that he has now reached three successive Grand Slam finals. Djokovic-Murray is fast becoming one of the great tennis rivalries.

As for Azarenka she defeated sixth seed Li Na in three sets in the women’s final. The Belarusian beat rising star Sloane Stephens in the semi-finals after the American surprisingly knocked out Serena Williams in the last eight.

Li was in the final thanks to a semi-final win over the in-form Maria Sharapova. She took the first set 6-4 but Azarenka came back strong to win the next two sets. It is the second Australian Open title in a row for the world number one.

So both world number ones and both defending champions took the titles at the Australian Open but can they dominate the Grand Slams this year? Or will the chasing pack such as Murray, Federer, Sharapova and Williams fight back and claim Slams themselves.

You can keep up to date with all the action at The Sporting Week throughout the year.

 

 

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Bowled Over – Bell Inspires Consolation Victory – By Luqman Liaqat

Ian Bell scored an unbeaten hundred to guide England to a consolation victory over India in the fifth and final ODI in Dharamsala.

Bell carried his bat off as he finished on 113 not out, becoming the tenth Englishmen to score a one-day hundred on Indian soil, ensuring the three lions ended their tour on a high despite India winning the series 3-2.

Tim Bresnan impressed with the ball earlier during his final appearance before being sent for treatment on a nagging elbow injury, his figures of 4-45 played the key part in rolling over the hosts for 226.

Suresh Raina held the Indian innings together as he scored an adamant, at times fortunate, 83 to help his side recover from 49-4.

There was some initial movement for seamer Steve Finn but it was Bresnan who made the early inroads into the Indian batting line-up.

Rohit Sharma was first to go edging to James Tredwell at second slip and Virat Kohli bagged a golden duck after poking a wider delivery again to Tredwell, who held on after a nervy spot of juggling.

Yuvraj Singh survived the hat-trick ball however; he was squared up in the next over for nought by Finn giving Eoin Morgan an easy floating catch at point.

After the third wicket, Ghautam Ghambir fell as well, piling more misery on the Indian batsmen.

Raina and MS Dhoni rebuilt the innings adding 30 more runs. Raina launched a huge six off Tredwell before Finn trapped the Indian skipper lbw for 15.

Despite the loss of Dhoni leaving India 79-5, Raina didn’t give up and had a good ally in Ravindra Jadeja (39) who raised the run rate with two sixes taking the score to 157-6.

England put Raina’s catches down which cost them heavily, after Jadeja’s dismissal he reached 83 before pulling to Bell at mid-wicket off Chris Woakes’ bowling. However, the tail did wag for the hosts as Ravi Ashwin scored 19 and Bhuvenshwar Kumar with 31 fired India to a respectable total.

The score seemed below-par, as Alaistair Cook and Bell gave England a solid foundation with a 50 run stand.

Cook’s departure came soon after, Ishant Sharma crept through his defence to rattle the stumps dismissing him for 22 and Kevin Pietersen only scored six runs before he was caught well by a running Jadeja at the boundary off Shami Ahmed.

Joe Root joined Bell which put the run chase back on the track, the Yorkshire captain contributed with 31 in the pairs 79 run stand before he perished to Jadeja when attempting a rather ambitious sweep shot.

Root’s wicket would be India’s last success; Morgan produced an impressive cameo off 40 from 40 balls and Bell brought up his century with a beautiful drive past a diving midwicket fielder.

The pair’s unbeaten partnership of 84 helped England get over line which will be a morale-boosting victory regardless of losing the series ahead of the tour to New Zealand.

The two teams will now face tough upcoming tours as India host Australia at the end of February and England play New Zealand in the first T20 on February 4.

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Terrace View – Oldham Shock Liverpool – By Billie Marshall

League one side Oldham Athletic claimed a historic victory over Liverpool yesterday to go through to the fifth round of the FA Cup.

56 league places separate the sides, although it was hard to tell which side were the Premier League outfit.

Despite fielding a strong side, Liverpool were out-muscled from the start, with Oldham rising to the occasion to claim a memorable win.

Matt Smith put the home side ahead in just the third minute before Luis Suarez equalised for Liverpool. However a mistake from Brad Jones, gifted Smith and Oldham a second goal on the stroke of half time.

Reece Wabara, on loan from Manchester City, got the third when his header found the corner.

Joe Allen scored his first goal for Liverpool late on to set up a nervy finish, but the home side frustrated a disappointing Liverpool side.

Before anybody could get comfortable, the upset began to take shape. M’changama found space on the left and delivered a ball into the path of Matt Smith. The striker climbed above Sebastian Coates to give the home side an early lead.

However, it didn’t take long before Liverpool were back on level terms. Suarez, Liverpool captain for the day, played an unintentional one-two off a defender before slotting calmly past Dean Bouzanis.

Liverpool seemed to take the initiative, and when Suarez headed in Jordan Henderson’s free-kick, they would have been ahead was it not for the offside flag.

Despite Liverpool growing into the game, they never managed to handle the physical presence of striker Smith, and on the stroke of half time put Oldham ahead again.

Jones, deputising for the injured Pepe Reina, spilt a seemingly easy cross from Wabara, before Smith tapped in.

Any plans Liverpool made at half time were soon undone. Just two minutes into the second half, early substitute Winchester crossed for the full back Wabara to loop a delightful header over Brad Jones and double the home sides lead.

Liverpool looked stunned and reacted by bringing on inspirational captain Steven Gerrard, however they struggled to break down a well organised and disciplined outfit.

Joe Allen did manage to pull a goal back for Liverpool. A corner was cleared to the edge of the box before Allen claimed his first goal for the reds via a deflection.

It set up a tense finish, and when Gerrard’s speculative effort crashed against the bar, Liverpool started fearing it wasn’t to be their day.

In a week of upsets, Oldham were determined not to disappoint and Paul Dickov’s side shown the heart and desire the FA Cup has been famously known for.

Oldham have beaten progressively higher opponents in each round before today in Kidderminster, Doncaster and Nottingham Forest and continued that run with victory over Premier League side Liverpool.

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Chambers Starts 2013 with Win

Dwain Chambers started his 2013 season with a convincing 60m win at the Glasgow Indoor Grand Prix.

The much criticised and controversial figure after his ban from the sport in the mid 2000’s, was in dominant form as he got out of the blocks well before running away from the field in a time of 6.58 seconds.

He defeated St Kitts and Nevis star Kim Collins who was second and Mike Rogers of America was third.

The women’s 60m saw a surprise winner in Germany’s Verena Sailer who comfortable beat American sensation Camelita Jeter.

Nigel Levine had to settle for second in the men’s 400m as he got his season off to a good start once more.

In the slightly unusual 600m indoor race of this level, Dai Greene moved up from the 400m hurdles, with Andrew Osagie coming down from the 800m, and they both had a ‘ding-dong’ battle as they raced tooth and nail with Duane Solomon of the USA.

Solomon took the victory from Greene and Osagie, the top three separated by less than a second.

Elsewhere, Lynsey Sharp, Andy Vernon and Robbie Grabarz got their season off to good, if not amazing starts, but with the trials only two weeks away, the all look assured of a shot at European Indoor Championships in March.

You can watch those trials on BBC on Saturday and Sunday the 9th and 10th of February.

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