Italy rebound to blow out Uruguay at the Rugby World Cup

Italy rebound to blow out Uruguay at the Rugby World Cup
Italy's Monty Ioane scores a try during the Rugby World Cup Pool A match between Italy and Uruguay at the Stade de Nice, in Nice, Wednesday. (AP)
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Updated 21 September 2023
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Italy rebound to blow out Uruguay at the Rugby World Cup

Italy rebound to blow out Uruguay at the Rugby World Cup
  • Monty Ioane: We could not have asked for more
  • All the talk about Pool A has been about New Zealand and France, but Italy have dispatched Namibia and Uruguay with bonus points and have a chance to send home the All Blacks when they meet next week

NICE: Italy rebounded from a 10-point halftime deficit to blow away Uruguay 38-17 on Wednesday and set up a potentially decisive clash against New Zealand at the Rugby World Cup.

All the talk about Pool A has been about New Zealand and France, but Italy have dispatched Namibia and Uruguay with bonus points and have a chance to send home the All Blacks — whom Italy have never beaten — when they meet next week.

“We could not have asked for more,” Italy winger Monty Ioane said. “The boys are confident, we’re ready to take on anyone. The next two are the biggies. It’s an awesome opportunity to go against the best teams in the world. But we are not worried at all as long as we just focus on ourselves.

“The All Blacks have a crazy attacking style, but we have just got to be prepared with our defense. In return, we have a crazy attacking system as well. It’s just who turns up on the day.”

In the first half against Uruguay, Italy didn’t look like it could tie the All Blacks’ boot laces.

After conceding the first try in a nervous first quarter, Uruguay turned the pressure back on Italy and the Azzurri buckled. They lost two players to the sin-bin and played with 13 men for nine minutes. Uruguay earned two tries and finished the half with a 45-meter drop goal.

Uruguay led 17-7 and good for the Rugby World Cup’s first shock.

But captain Andres Vilaseca was given a harsh yellow for a high tackle and the difference between Italy, aiming for the quarterfinals, and Uruguay, aiming for a rare Rugby World Cup win, became sharply evident.

Italy pounced with four tries in 15 minutes to earn the precious bonus point and a fourth straight test win for the first time since 1994.

“It was a really tough game,” captain Michele Lamaro said. “I told all the Uruguayan guys they can be proud of their performance, they put us under a lot of pressure but in these moments, what counts the most is how strong is the team, and in the second half we showed that and smashed everything we could.

“I’m really proud of the boys and I’ll share this moment for the rest of my life with them.”

Italy took the lead from Uruguay in the seventh minute when wing Lorenzo Pani took crash ball off a scrum and scored on his Rugby World Cup debut.

Uruguay flyhalf Felipe Etcheverry dragged his first two penalty kicks wide and intercepted Lamaro but was dragged down short of the tryline by opposite Tommaso Allan.

But Italy were under pressure on their line and lock Niccolo Cannone was yellow-carded for a cynical foul. Moments later, Uruguay mauled over the line and Italy prop Danilo Fischetti was ruled to have collapsed it. A penalty try was awarded and Fischetti joined Cannone in the sin-bin.

Uruguay exploited the two-man advantage just before it ended when Etcheverry offloaded for a corner try by wing Nicolas Freitas, who by then had been playing with a broken nose for 25 minutes.

Etcheverry converted from the touchline and added a 45-meter drop goal with the last kick of the half to send Uruguay racing off the field with a 17-7 halftime lead.

The match turned again at the start of the second half when Vilaseca was sin-binned. Italy made the man advantage count.

Hooker Giacomo Nicotera was held up by Uruguay scrumhalf Santiago Arata, but two minutes later Lamaro bashed through three defenders to score his first test try. Lamaro was quickly followed with tries by wing Montanna Ioane after a chargedown by Allan, and No. 8 Lorenzo Cannone while Uruguayans were hanging off him.

With bonus-point try banked, Italy hammered the Uruguay line and Paolo Garbisi fed midfield partner Juan Ignacio Brex into a gap to score their fifth try.

Allan added the extras as usual. He has slotted 13 goalkicks without a miss in two games. When he was rested, Garbisi took over to nail a late penalty kick.

“It was a really epic battle. We gave the best we could,” Uruguay flanker Santiago Civetta said. “There were a lot of mistakes, more than what we wanted, and Italy exploited those errors. That is the explanation — they were better than us.

“It is quite frustrating to be honest. We dreamt really big about this match. Big dreams sometimes come true, sometimes they don’t.”


Saudi Olympians meet with local mayor at Paris Games training camp

Saudi Olympians meet with local mayor at Paris Games training camp
Updated 30 sec ago
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Saudi Olympians meet with local mayor at Paris Games training camp

Saudi Olympians meet with local mayor at Paris Games training camp
  • Marc-Antoine Jamet spoke with pole vaulter Hussain Al-Hizam and swimmer Zaid Al-Sarraj

LONDON: The mayor of Val-de-Reuil in Normandy met with Saudi athletes preparing to compete in the upcoming Paris Olympics at their training camp in the commune on Thursday.

Marc-Antoine Jamet spoke with pole vaulter Hussain Al-Hizam and swimmer Zaid Al-Sarraj as well as the director of the Saudi team, Afnan Barnawi, and a number of camp administrators.

The mayor was joined by local children and they wished the Saudi team luck and success in their Olympic participation.

Also on Thursday, the Saudi show jumping team held a training session in the Kingdom ahead of their journey to join up with the Saudi delegation in Paris two days before the equestrian competition starts on July 27.


Lowry leads as McIlroy, Woods suffer nightmare start at The Open

Lowry leads as McIlroy, Woods suffer nightmare start at The Open
Updated 2 min 28 sec ago
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Lowry leads as McIlroy, Woods suffer nightmare start at The Open

Lowry leads as McIlroy, Woods suffer nightmare start at The Open
  • Lowry made the most of the calm late afternoon conditions with three birdies in five holes around the turn and picked up another at the 18th to lead by two shots
  • World number one Scottie Scheffler cut a frustrated figure on the greens but is still in the mix after a one under round

TROON, United Kingdom: Shane Lowry shot to the top of the leaderboard at five under par as Rory McIlroy was among the big names to struggle on day one of the 152nd Open at Royal Troon.
McIlroy posted a seven over par round of 78 with his hopes of ending a 10-year wait to win a major floundering as most of the field struggled in the wet and windy conditions on Scotland’s west coast.
Lowry, who won his sole major at The Open five years ago, made the most of the calm late afternoon conditions with three birdies in five holes around the turn and picked up another at the 18th to lead by two shots.
Two-time major winner Justin Thomas is lurking at three under, while recently crowned USPGA Championship winner Xander Schauffele is among a group of five on two under that also includes Justin Rose.
World number one Scottie Scheffler cut a frustrated figure on the greens but is still in the mix after a one under round that featured four birdies and three bogeys.
McIlroy was aiming to get over his heartbreak at the US Open last month, where he missed two short putts to blow the lead as Bryson DeChambeau claimed his second major by one shot.
However, the Northern Irishman’s round, and probably championship, was blown off course at the postage stamp 120-yard eighth.
McIlroy was unfortunate as his near-perfect tee shot slipped off the green into a bunker, which he took two attempts to get out of, to post a double bogey five.
Another double bogey followed at the 11th, while he also dropped shots at the 10th, 15th and 18th.
“All I need to focus on is tomorrow and try to make the cut,” said McIlroy.
“I need to go out there and play better and try to shoot something under par and at least be here for the weekend, if not try to put myself up the leaderboard a bit more and feel like I have half a chance.”

DeChambeau had been the form player in the majors so far this year, despite his defection to the breakaway LIV Tour.
The American finished sixth at the Masters and runner-up in the USPGA Championship before claiming his second US Open.
However, his struggles with the windy conditions of links golf continued as he was six over par for his opening nine holes.
DeChambeau battled back on the back nine as an eagle on the 17th helped him to a 76.
“I’m just proud of the way I persevered today,” said DeChambeau.
“I could have thrown in the towel after nine and could have been like, ‘I’m going home’. But no, I’ve got a chance tomorrow. I’m excited for the challenge.”
Thomas recovered from his own double bogey at the 12th to post a 68, which was 14 shots better than his opening round at Royal Liverpool 12 months ago.
“I played really solid, got it around. I felt like I had great control of the ball,” said Thomas.
World number three Schauffele continued his fine form in recent months as he dropped just one shot to put himself among the chasing pack.
Five-time major champion Brooks Koepka defied the worst of the weather to post four consecutive bridies between the fourth and the seventh before dropping back to one under.
Tiger Woods had hit back at suggestions from former European Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie that he should retire, but the 15-time major champion failed to prove he can still be competitive with a 79.
“I didn’t do a whole lot of things right today,” said Woods. “I had three 3-putts today. I didn’t hit my irons very close, and I didn’t give myself a whole lot of looks today.”
Cameron Smith, champion at St. Andrews two years ago, fared even worse with an 80.
World number four Ludvig Aberg was another of the big names to falter in his first ever round at a British Open with a four-over round of 75.
The Swede’s playing partner Jon Rahm is two over, while home favorite Bob McIntire is in the running after a one-over 72 to back up his victory at last week’s Scottish Open.


Al-Nassr Women discover opponents for prelim stage of first AFC Women’s Champions League

Al-Nassr Women discover opponents for prelim stage of first AFC Women’s Champions League
Updated 18 July 2024
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Al-Nassr Women discover opponents for prelim stage of first AFC Women’s Champions League

Al-Nassr Women discover opponents for prelim stage of first AFC Women’s Champions League
  • Saudi Arabia will host the preliminary stage of the tournament next month

RIYADH: Saudi champions Al-Nassr Women have been drawn against Myawady Women from Myanmar, the UAE’s Abu Dhabi Country Club and Young Elephants FC of Laos in the inaugural AFC Women’s Champions League.

Saudi Arabia will host the preliminary stage of the tournament next month, it was also confirmed on Thursday.

The first edition of the tournament will welcome the 21 domestic champions from AFC member associations, and the preliminary stage in the Kingdom — which will be played Aug. 25 to 31 — will feature 13 teams competing in four round-robin groups.

The winner of each will progress to the group stage, where eight top-seeded clubs await.

The Kingdom’s selection as hosts for the preliminary stage follows the successful hosting of the West Asian Football Federation Women’s Championship and the growth of the Women’s Premier League ahead of its third season.


Cricket’s future path is clear after recent forum

Cricket’s future path is clear after recent forum
Updated 18 July 2024
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Cricket’s future path is clear after recent forum

Cricket’s future path is clear after recent forum
  • World Cricket Connects brought together more than 100 influential voices in the game

A focus of this column over the last three years has been the rapidly changing landscape of professional cricket. Some things which may have seemed like straws in the wind in mid-June 2021 are now in full flow, unlikely to be stopped even by hurricane-strength storms.

Cricket’s governing body is the International Cricket Council, tasked with managing the game. In a previous era, this had been the responsibility of the Marylebone Cricket Club. The latter still has influence in the game. Early this year, its current president, Mark Nicholas, an urbane former professional cricketer, initiated the idea of a forum to discuss cricket’s future. This was held on July 5 at Lord’s prior to England’s Test match against the West Indies.

The gathering was called World Cricket Connects. It brought together more than 100 influential voices in the game, including chairs and CEOs from five ICC full members, plus associate nations, Scotland and Oman. Former and current players, both men and women, were present, along with several executives of T20 franchises.

There was one notable omission. Jay Shah, secretary of the Board for Control of Cricket in India, was not there. He had sent his apologies. The need to be pictured with the T20 World Cup Trophy in India prevailed. Why not, especially after an election victory, since his father is Prime Minister Modi’s interior minister. The BCCI’s priorities are clear. They were clear in September 2021 when it pulled its team from a deciding Test match against England, citing mental health issues, only for the players to return immediately to perform in the Indian Premier League.

Without Shah, described by Nicholas as the most powerful person in cricket, the event was an emperor without clothes. Reports of its content took time to emerge. The ICC chair was reported to have said that the ICC is not fit for purpose and that as a “members’ organization,” it falls short of being a global governing body. Whilst not a revelation to many, the fact that it was said in a semi-public forum is a surprise, perhaps reflecting frustration at India’s power. This is not going to decline.

Ravi Shastri, Inda’s representative and a recent former coach, put forward a view that the 12 teams playing Test cricket should have a promotion and relegation system, with two tiers of six, including promotion and relegation. It may well come to that position, hastened by the costs of hosting Test cricket.

In this context, enter the ICC’s long-term ambition for cricket to become the world’s favorite sport. This translates into leading, growing and promoting cricket. The ICC is not really a governing body. It is an organizer and facilitator of global events, a builder of long-term successful commercial partnerships and a catalyst for growth. Almost as an afterthought, it says that “it will continue to make considerable efforts to protect the integrity of the sport.”

On the latter, there remain doubts, Betting is rife in the game. I have been moved by ICC officials from boundary side positions because I may be passing on information obtained from players to gambling companies. This not something that I would do and I am hardly the problem. It is unlikely that betting’s influence on cricket got a mention at Lord’s, which it should have done.

As we all know, T20 is the growth engine of modern-day cricket, like it or not. This fits the ICC’s vision, it is completely in tune with that of the BCCI and it fits with the growth of cricket in countries where growth would not have been possible otherwise. In this context, I was amazed to be appraised of a tournament hosted by Poland, involving teams from Latvia, Lithuania and Montenegro. My amazement centered on the Montenegro Bokaneers team.

It had three players with the surname of Plastics, its base registered as Brighton (England) and had one player with whom I have shared a pitch on more than one occasion. T20 cricket has democratized the game, but at what cost? At the World Cricket Connects event it was reported that there was much talk of money, about levering the consumer and responding to commercial forces. Apparently, those forces are killing Test cricket for all but the major countries. It costs upward of £1 million ($1.3 million) for Ireland and Scotland, for example, to host a Test match, without commensurate return from gate receipts, broadcasting rights and sponsorship. In Pakistan, costs of providing security for a Test match series are estimated to be up to $5 million.

Meanwhile, viewership levels for One Day International cricket have fallen by a quarter since 2019. In that context, discussions about reducing the number of “meaningless” matches surfaced, whatever that means. Some people may regard the recent England vs. West Indies Test match at Lord’s, completed in just over two days, as meaningless. Those who played a Test at Lord’s for the first time, one of whom took 12 wickets, are likely to disagree. In Scotland, the men’s team is hosting Oman and Namibia as part of the ICC Cricket World Cup League Two, part of the qualifying process for the 2027 ODI World Cup. In general, Scotland is desperate to play more cricket, especially against top-quality opposition, in matches that would have real meaning, as it seeks to improve its position in world cricket. Even Latvia vs. Montenegro Bokaneers has meaning for those who achieved an ambition of playing in an “international” match.

The sad truth is that professional cricket has been captured by commercial forces and, in particular, by those in India. Those forces are advertisers, producers of goods and services, broadcasters, betting companies and sponsors. Their most comfortable outlet is T20 cricket, given its short format and adaptability to broadcasting schedules. The COVID-19 pandemic caused substantial financial losses for cricket worldwide that have accelerated the rush to the T20 format, which looks set to dominate the future in its thrall to money. It now seems clear that both Test and ODI cricket will need to shrink to accommodate this new reality of commercialism and measurement of success by income generation.


Professional Fighters League announces extra bouts for August playoffs

Professional Fighters League announces extra bouts for August playoffs
Updated 18 July 2024
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Professional Fighters League announces extra bouts for August playoffs

Professional Fighters League announces extra bouts for August playoffs
  • 2024 PFL Playoffs will see the return of Biaggio Ali Walsh to the SmartCage

NEW YORK: The Professional Fighters League has announced additional bouts for the 2024 PFL Global Season Playoffs in August.

On Friday, Aug. 2 in Nashville, the heavyweight and women’s flyweight divisions will take center stage.

In a marquee addition to the event, Tyrell Fortune (14-2) will face Sergei Bilostenniy (12-3) in a heavyweight alternate contest. In all, five early bouts have been added to an already stacked night of action.

Two weeks later on Aug.16, the light-heavyweight and lightweight playoffs will take place in Hollywood, Florida.

Biaggio Ali Walsh (1-0) makes his sophomore professional appearance against undefeated Korey Taylor (4-0) during the ESPN main card.

A light-heavyweight alternate bout pitting Antonio Carlos Jr. (16-6) against Karl Albrektsson (14-5) is confirmed, while a lightweight alternate fight between Elvin Espinoza (10-1) and Mads Burnell (19-6) is also official for the early card.

The playoffs will conclude on Aug. 23 in Washington D.C. with the welterweight and featherweight divisions.

A welterweight alternate bout pitting Neiman Gracie (13-5) against Luca Poclit (10-2) is confirmed, while a featherweight alternate fight between Tyler Diamond (14-3) and Enrique Barzola (20-9-2) is also official.

The PFL Regular Season has each winner of the six weight divisions receiving a $1 million purse.